Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What I did on my holidays

The Israeli holiday period finished yesterday (i.e. today is the first day of work). This is a three week period in which there are very few workdays; projects are brought to a standstill and many people take time off. Whilst I did relax a great deal during this period, I also achieved a few things.

Books: I read all four 'Millenium' books for the first time in several years and compared my feelings now to what I wrote in the past. Not much has changed; all the books need strong editing, and the first is somewhat out of place. Over the past few days, I've been copy editing a Kindle version of the science fiction book, "The mote in God's eye", by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The story is excellent and so justifies the work which I have done. The Kindle version which I have seems to be derived from an OCR copy and so has many mistakes which can easily be corrected. I've done about 25 chapters and am about 75% of the way through the book. 

Music: over the past few months, I've recorded quite a few songs, so the holiday break gave me a chance to listen to them via the stereo system in the living room instead of via headphones connected to the computer. A few minor edits and changes were required, which improved those songs. I rerecorded the vocals for one song for the third time, improving it immensely; I recorded two takes and used those takes as a double tracked vocal, instead of converting one mono take to stereo then delaying slightly one of the channels. I was surprised at how accurately the second take matches the first take; there was only one line in which it was clearly apparent that I was singing the song twice. This may well be because the song is in 5/4 time and I had to be very precise about the phrasing.

It also became clear that I needed a 'fast' track to liven things up (I have a tendency to record slow songs). On Sunday evening I took the dog for a walk and came back with a chord sequence; I worked on an arrangement for about two hours a day for four days and then wrote the lyrics. On Thursday I recorded the vocals and on Friday had second thoughts about the ending. In a week, I had written a song from scratch as well as recording it! Whilst this is hardly a top-tier song, it still sounds pretty good. Listening to all the songs again, I now need a slow song....

I was playing the songs by connecting a line between the computer's speaker socket and the aux socket on the stereo; as a result, the music is dependent on the computer's sound card which caused several frequencies to disappear. I presume that a cd burnt on my music computer will produce a much better sound. But even so, the songs still sound good - they just sound better on the music computer.

I visited my optician this morning (the dog ate one of the end pieces of one set of glasses); I had to wait an hour as the optician was looking after someone else who is a performing guitarist. When this person was paying, the optician asked what kind of music he played, to which the guitarist answered 'look for me on youtube'. I don't know what this person's name is, so I can't look for him, but that's not the point. It occurred to me that I could make a video of me miming one of my new songs and then upload it to YouTube. Maybe ....

There was a question on 'Academic Stack Exchange' the other day asking what to do when a reviewer requests more recent quotes (answer: include more recent quotes). This is something which appears in my course book: even though the literature review may be completed two years before the thesis is handed in, try to keep up with articles as they are published and update the review. So yesterday, I spent most of the day reading new papers, mainly about 'shadow IT'. I can safely include a few mentions without changing the thesis greatly. These papers have similar concerns to mine, although they differ in the specific subject matter (ERP systems run by SMEs). I am now part of a global group who is researching this field.

The end of the doctorate is now in sight! I also gave a little thought to what happens after the doctorate - do I just say thank you and go home, or should I continue somehow in my academic endeavours? I would like to have some kind of part-time appointment at Ben Gurion University which is only an hour away by train and seems to have a department in which I could feel at home. Tel Aviv University is slightly closer by train but I haven't come across any publication by their staff in my field.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who's watching who?

I'm not sure whether the lack of lighting was an artistic decision by my daughter or an accident, but this is definitely an arresting picture of my grand-daughter and my 'grand-dog'. Who's watching who here?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Virtual XP machine running under Windows 8

When I bought my mobile computer six months ago, I stated that one of the reasons for doing so was to transfer all my Delphi development work to this computer; this would allow me to take the computer with me on Friday mornings when I work face to face with the Occupational Psychologist so that simple program fixes can be programmed on the spot.

Unfortunately, that plan didn't work out as I had great difficulty in installing Delphi, and when I did manage to cross that hurdle, I discovered that all source code which uses Hebrew has been mangled (rather, the Hebrew has been mangled; the code itself is ok). Since then, I have not given any thought to the 'Delphi Hebrew' problem and have used the mobile computer for tasks such as creating videos, writing my doctoral thesis and recording vocals for my songs.

This morning, when walking the dog, a thought popped into my mind, completely out of the blue: maybe I could create a virtual XP machine on my computer and run Delphi "as was" in that virtual machine. This was rather a strange thought as the subject hasn't crossed my mind in nearly six months, but prophetically true. I used this web page as a guide, which was more than enough to get me started.

At first I downloaded the professional version of VMWare, but quickly corrected my mistake and downloaded the free version, VMWare Player. While this was downloading and installing, I looked for an installation disk for XP. I used to have this on a thumb drive, but apparently deleted it at some stage. To my pleasure, I discovered a bootable cd in a drawer, so I was set. I forgot how long it took to install XP! Once the operating system was installed, I could open the virtual machine and run XP. I then wasted some time installing Delphi and various components: it would have been better to wait until I saw that my programs ran properly in this virtual machine.

Eventually I started testing some of my programs; I had to install Hebrew as a language as well as defining it as the program for non-Unicode programs. After this, my programs ran but did not display Hebrew; either I had missed a reset or else there was an extra definition to be made in the control panel. So after changing something, I rebooted the virtual machine and finally my programs displayed properly. I haven't tried compiling anything yet - that will be a different can of worms - but at least I know that the groundwork has been laid.

Transferring files from Win 8 to XP is a bit strange (one has to use the 'unity' option) but works; copying files in the opposite direction (XP to Win8) is a simple matter of copying the files in the virtual machine then pasting them into Win8. This means that backing up files to Mega will not be a problem.

Here are screenshots of the control panel's regional and language options, in case I have to do this again (and it's good to know that I can use the Windows 8 snipping tool to get screenshots of part of the XP screen)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pain whilst walking

In the past few weeks, I've started walking again in the evenings. Normally I can only do this about two evenings a week, which is surprising considering that I used to walk six or seven evenings a week. At first, I was walking in my crocs shoes, but whilst comfortable, these aren't the sort of shoes intended for a five kilometre walk. Over the past two weeks, I've been wearing my walking shoes, accompanied by copper socks which are slightly two small. As a result of something, I've been suffering from shin splints - almost certainly a sign that I need new shoes.

So yesterday afternoon, I went to the sports shop in the local mall and tried a few pairs of shoes. The salesman appeared to know what he was talking about as he asked several pertinent questions before finding a suitable pair of shoes. These fit well but are a drain on the wallet - even with 25% discount, the price was about $170 - but in the case of walking shoes, it is important that they are quality shoes and that one should not try to make false savings.

In the evening, I put the shoes on and went for my walk. After about six circuits (about 1.5km), the pains started again. I slowed down and tried to analyse what was happening: it's not that the shoes are new or that the socks are too tight (although I want to try walking with ordinary socks), but rather because I am walking incorrectly. The proper way to walk is heel and toe, heel and toe, but I notice that when I start walking fast, I slam the foot down 'in one piece' on the path, with the arch - which is probably the weakest part of the foot - taking the impact. And almost certainly that's the source of the pain. I managed to outlast the pain then walk properly for more circuits,eventually completing 5km - but 'only' at an average speed of 6km/h (I prefer to walk at 6.5 km/h). I suppose it's better to walk 5 km in 50 minutes with no pain (and no muscle damage) rather than walk 5 km in 45 minutes: more calories are burnt at the cost of pain and muscle damage.

My left shin still hurts a little today so I'll probably skip walking in the evening. As tomorrow evening is the beginning of the Yom Kippur fast, obviously I won't be walking either tomorrow or the day after either, so now one can understand how I manage to walk only two or three times a week! Tomorrow morning I will take the dog for a long walk - off the lead - which will help condition the shoes.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Health update

I donated blood yesterday evening. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is important for me. The last time the 'bloodmobile' came around, sometime in April, I was disqualified as my haemoglobin level was too low - 12.9 (the minimum is 13). It has happened before that I have been disqualified and it's not a pleasant feeling.

In order to improve my levels of iron, I have started eating a spoonful of sesame seeds along with my morning yoghurt, which is already enriched with flax seeds, granola and goji berries; I have reduced the quantity of flax seed from two to one spoonful. Sesame seeds are a very good source of iron, and this seems to be reflected in the fact that my haemoglobin level yesterday was 13.4 - a very welcome increase.

The above reference to goji berries includes the ominous statement "goji berries may also interact with diabetes drugs and blood pressure drugs" - I will have to check this out. There's no point in taking a pill which decreases my blood pressure whilst at the same time eating something which increases it (incidentally, my bp was also measured last night: it was at the top of the scale as far as I am concerned).

On another issue, I have been taking theanine supplements, as noted here, for the past six weeks. I am certain that the theanine causes an effect, but it is subtle. The most obvious effect is that my dreams are more intense, allowing me frequently to recall dreams after waking (increased alpha waves). I've noticed that during my morning walk with the dog, I have lost the feeling of despondency which used to accompany me - this is the anti-anxiety aspect of theanine working. I have noticed a more subtle effect, but only by negation: it used to happen frequently that whenever I had an unpleasant experience during the day, that experience would often "play itself in a loop" during the night, causing my sleep not to be restorative. I had one very unpleasant experience a few weeks ago - receiving the feedback on my DBA intermediate submission - but I did not dream about that at all the same night (nor any following night).

So it would seem that the theanine is useful; it certainly hasn't caused any problems. I thought that there would be some influence of the frequency of apneic events, but I can't see that in the data. The sleep apnea is much more influenced by the CPAP pressure than anything else, and the data went haywire a few days before I started with theanine. As a result, I don't have a baseline with which to compare pre-theanine and post-theanine; I'm assuming that there is no effect.

Connected to the sleep apnea, I had an echocardiography examination on Sunday: central sleep apnea (which I have) can be caused by cardiac problems. Although neither my doctor nor I think that this is what is happening in my case, it's better to be prudent and check that there are no problems. Presumably because of the holidays, I will get the answer only in another week.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

DBA: Entering the final third of the doctorate

Unfortunately, my thesis supervisor went on holiday for two weeks immediately after the last research committee meeting, so I wasn't able to talk with him about the submission feedback until yesterday. I expressed my feelings about the feedback which he understood; the supervisor was also able to set my mind at rest on a couple of points. Firstly, it transpires that one of the reviewers has an IT background whereas one doesn't, which explains why one reviewer was more understanding than the other. Secondly - and more important: the feedback will have no effect whatsoever on the judging of the final thesis; this is dependent solely on the internal examiner, the external examiner and the viva.

We discussed certain points about the feedback, primarily the need for expanding the methodology section. Since receiving the feedback, I had written a few pages about research paradigms and similar matters; most of what I had written was accepted by my supervisor, but I still have to add material as to why I am using the methodology which I have chosen. This shouldn't be too difficult to write. My supervisor also notes that I have to write about the differences between deductive and inductive theories.

In order to address some of the issues raised by the non-IT reviewer, I wrote a new opening page for the thesis which begins with the statement "If information is the life blood of the modern organisation". Normally I would have considered ERP programs to be the nerve centre of the organisation, but apart from showing my bias, it also creates a mixed metaphor. Thus I concluded the opening sentence thus "then ERP programs can be considered to be the vascular system".

I spent some time trying to introduce a graphic representation of an ERP system; whilst I found one eye-catching graphic on some company's web site, I decided not to use it as the graphic is in colour and would probably look bad in black and white. I found a PowerPoint template which enabled me to create a similar graphic which I then pasted into the thesis. In the evening, I considered how to overcome the problem posed by the non-IT reviewer: I need someone to read the thesis who is an academic, understands English but is not IT-orientated; this way, hopefully I will be able to get more useful feedback on what isn't clear. There are a few suitable people on the kibbutz who I can approach.

Due to the holiday season, I won't be able to start the active research until November, so I intend to use the time until then to fill in the gaps which the review pointed out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

New Year greetings

By chance, it happened that the evening of the new Jewish year fell on Sunday night; as a result, most people had a very long weekend - from Friday until Tuesday inclusive (or if you prefer, my last working day was on Thursday 29/9 and my next working day will be on Wednesday 5/10). Unfortunately, the weather was inclement: there was a sharav on Sunday and Monday. 

We went to my brother-in-law's house for the celebration on Sunday night and as a result we didn't come home until midnight. I forgot to cancel the alarm clock function on my mobile phone, so I was woken at 5:30am. Unable to get back to sleep, I took the dog for a long walk, but when I came home, I was groggy all day. As a result, I wasn't able to recognise that the headache which developed during the day was due to the weather (in other words, a migraine) and so didn't take the required medicine until about 6:30pm. As a result, by about 8pm, I was extremely tired and went to bed.

Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!