Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Jewish New Year/A death in the family/My first video clip

The Jewish New Year fell on Wednesday evening, which is very good timing for most Israelis as it means that we have a very long weekend, Wednesday - Saturday; we will have the same in another two weeks time and again in three weeks time.

I have tried to make good use of this time: I worked several hours as a Priority consultant (from home, developing a complicated program) and I worked four hours for the Occupational Psychologist. I worked for one hour on my research proposal, adding a certain amount of material, but I was supposed to add a page or two about grounded theory. I'll try to do this during the coming week.

I also cooked every day - salmon, chicken portions, a whole chicken and meatballs. I managed to burn my mouth with roast potatoes on the first night, which made eating the next day problematic. Fortunately the mouth heals itself.

On Thursday we went to Netanya to visit one of my wife's uncles: he went swimming in the sea two weeks ago and suffered some form of heart attack as he was getting out of the sea. This caused him to collapse, and although the water was less than knee-high, he managed to swallow a fair amount of seawater. The lifeguard pulled him out immediately, and fortunately there was a doctor on the beach who also helped. The ingested seawater caused a lung infection which was treated in the hospital. When we saw him, he was much better, and was laughing and joking with us. The following day another uncle informed us that he had died that morning. The funeral will be tomorrow.

The kibbutz has a tradition of hosting a special evening on Yom Kippur where people read poems or stories, or sing songs which are very meaningful. I don't know exactly what happens as I fast on Yom Kippur and am never in the mood for such an evening. A few years ago, I prepared a disc with my version of an Israeli song which means a great deal to me. Apparently this was well received. I had been intending to prepare another song for this year, but when walking the dog a few nights ago, I thought that it would be even better if I could prepare a video of me 'performing' the song.

I've never done anything like this before and don't really have the necessary tools. I made a rough storyboard of how the video would run, each part corresponding to a different part in the song. Originally I thought that I would have to film the entire song four or five times, each time in a different setting, so that eventually I could take the parts which I wanted, but later I realised that I only needed to film each intended segment and then build the final video from each segment.

This morning I enlisted my wife as camera-person; she wasn't familiar with the song which became problematic as she didn't know when each segment was supposed to start. Nevertheless, after about an hour and twenty three segments (only eleven are required: certain segments had to be filmed several times whereas others were filmed only once), the hard part - or so I thought - was over.

After lunch, I started editing the segments. In the past, I have made movies of our holidays, but in those cases, the music was edited (if at all) to fit the action. This time around, I had to edit the film to fit the music and this was exceedingly difficult. I was able to synchronise the segments in which I am singing, but several of the instrumental parts are unsynchronised - at least to my eyes. There must be a better way of doing this for otherwise I doubt whether I will try again.

The video can be found here.

Tomorrow it's back to work for a full and normal week.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Literature review - I don't believe this!

One of the early problems which I faced in finding papers suitable for review in my doctoral thesis is that ERP has several meanings: Enterprise Resource Planning is the meaning that I use, but the acronym also stands for Event Related (brain) Potential. When searching for material with Google Scholar, it is best to use the full name rather than the acronym, otherwise one gets results which are connected to research about nerves.

Checking one recent paper, I came across this gem in its literature review (Orougi, S. : "Recent advances in enterprise resource planning", Accounting (1), 2015, 37-42): According to Armstrong et al. (2015), the human brain continually creates electrical potentials representing neural communication and they can be computed at the scalp, and constitute the electroencephalogram (EEG). They used different pattern classifiers to ERPs representing the response of individuals to a stream of text designed to be familiar to various individuals. They reported that there were robustly identifiable features of the ERP, which enable labeling of ERPs. Bueno and Salmeron (2008) concentrated on decisive factors affecting on the ERP users’ acceptance and implementation. They developed a technique based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) for examining the effect of the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) on ERP implementation.

From Bueno and Salmeron onwards, the ERP referred to is the type of ERP which interests me, but the first half of the paragraph is about a different meaning of ERP! How come the journal's editors never spotted this?

From the above, it can be inferred that I am working again on my research proposal; at the moment I am looking at definitions of 'success' with regard to ERP programs in general and enhancements in particular (no one seems to have researched this latter topic). This is in response to remarks made by my new mentor; I have to admit that I find it very difficult to understand what he is getting at. This isn't helped by remarks such as "while you again say you do not understand what I am saying to you, you do not specify what it is". It seems that there is mutual incomprehension; I am trying to read between the lines as much as possible but it is very difficult. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Interface for importing XML files into Priority

Today, I learnt how to create an interface which imports XML files into Priority. Although there is some mention of XML files in the documentation, as usual this is so opaque as to be useless. But I found an existing interface and the file which it reads (conversion rates for foreign currencies), and it took about five minutes of study to figure out how the interface is designed.

Here's an XML file which I successfully imported:
(Order) (CustName)8100(/CustName) (Ref)PO170851(/Ref) (Reqdate)13/10/17(/Reqdate) (OrderItems) (OrderItem) (PartName)11335384BLKOF250S(/PartName) (Quant)2(/Quant) (UnitPrice)900(/UnitPrice) (Discount)50.0(/Discount) (DueDate)12/10/17(/DueDate) (/OrderItem) (OrderItem) (PartName)42103(/PartName) (Quant)1(/Quant) (UnitPrice)0.0(/UnitPrice) (Discount)50.0(/Discount) (DueDate)12/10/17(/DueDate) (/OrderItem) (/OrderItems) (/Order) ... round brackets should be replaced by angle brackets
The interface is designed, as usual, in the Form Load Designer (path: System Management > Database Interface > Form Load (EDI) > Form Load Designer). There is no load table, so the field 'file name' should contain the path to the xml file. Most importantly, the field 'File Type' must be X. Once the header has been defined, it is paramount to run the procedure 'Prepare XML tags by File Defs'; as far as I can see, this procedure loads the file and builds a small database of possible tags. This 'database' will be accessed in a later step.

Then, like a regular interface, one defines the screens and fields into which data is to be inserted. Using the above example, data will be added into the ORDERS screen (customer orders), fields custname, reference and tec_prdate (the field names don't have to match the tags), and into the ORDERITEMS screen, fields partname, quantity, unit price, discount and due date. The catch - for which we need the 'tags database' - is that the correct tag has to be entered into the sub-form 'Definition of XML tags': for example, the custname field is read via the tag Order/CustName, and the part number ordered is read via the tag Order/OrderItems/OrderItem/PartName.

All of this implies that the XML file has to exist before the interface can be created. It's not clear to me at the minute how an XML file could be created by the interface if none exists in advance; presumably the program uses the XML tags to create a file, but these tags don't exist until they are read by the 'Prepare XML tags'. Hmmmm. Fortunately, I only need to read XML files, not create them.

I have been sent an XML file, parts of which look like this:

(document aliasset="" pdmweid="52034") (configuration name="Default") (attribute name="Part Number" value="CLM-054-080000"/) (attribute name="Reference Count" value="2.0"/) (/configuration) (/document)
I get the feeling that I won't be able to read this file.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Exchanging warning and error messages in Priority

A strange situation cropped up yesterday afternoon: someone was trying to do something in a certain screen and the action resulted in an error message, thus preventing the user from continuing. When I tried the same action, I received only a warning message and was able to proceed. The difference between the two is that a warning message has two buttons - 'cancel' and 'ok' - whereas an error message has only the 'ok' button.

I tried tracing the error this morning: eventually I found the error message, but I couldn't figure out why two users had differing responses. I couldn't find any flag in the 'users' table which might explain the difference.

After opening a service request, I discovered something new (or maybe something which I once knew and then forgot): it is possible to exchange warning and error messages. In order to do this, one had to open the 'Privilege Explorer' and navigate to the required screen. Once there, one presses the right hand button on the mouse and a context menu pops up; there is an option which I've never used called 'Form Warning Messages'. This option displays all the warning/error messages defined within the given screen. Double clicking on a message enables the administrator to change the status of the message.

It transpires that the specific message had been upgraded from a warning message to an error message for this user (and quite possibly, correctly so for the error was concerned with the creation of negative inventory). It was a simple matter to change this.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

A legacy of spies/2 : How old is George Smiley?

As far as I am concerned, the most egregious mistake in 'Legacy' is the appearance of the legendary George Smiley at the end of the book. How old is Smiley?

The first chapter in the very first book of Le Carré ('Call for the dead') is entitled 'A brief history of George Smiley'. Here we read Some time in the twenties when Smiley had emerged from his unimpressive school and lumbered blinking into the murky cloisters of his unimpressive Oxford College ... On a sweet July morning in 1928, a puzzled and rather pink Smiley had sat before an interviewing board of the Overseas Committee for Academic Research. So: Smiley completed his degree in 1928, meaning that he was born around 1907.

'The honourable schoolboy', which is the second part of the retro-styled 'Karla trilogy' states that ... the true genesis was Haydon’s unmasking by George Smiley and Smiley’s consequent appointment as caretaker chief of the betrayed service, which occurred in the late November of 1973. This gives the date for 'Tinker, tailor', making Smiley about 67 years old at the time. This is reasonable.

'The spy who came in from the cold' has to take place after the Berlin Wall was erected in late 1961; 'Legacy' contains an account of the 'trial' which takes place in November 1962. 'Legacy' itself starts as a verbal account by Smiley's sidekick, Peter Guillam, who says on the opening page "What matters to him [a professional intelligence officer] is the extent to which he is able to suppress them [human feelings], whether in real time, or in my case, fifty years on" [emphasis mine]. This dates 'Legacy' to about 2011 ... at which time George Smiley would be 104 years old!!! Even dropping ten years off his age in the reboot 'Tinker, tailor' would make him 94 years old ... very unlikely to be still researching in Swiss libraries.

Narrator Guillam's timeline is also problematic: 'Legacy' has him aged 8 at the end of World War 2, which means that he was born around 1937. 'Call for the dead' takes place in 1961, and Guillam is duty officer on the first night of the story - at the tender age of 24. This doesn't leave much time for his training and active service abroad. Also, it seems unlikely that he would have been advanced at such a tender age to the position of trust which he occupies in the historic parts of 'Legacy'. On the other hand, the present time of 'Legacy' would have him aged about 75, which would make him slightly too old for the physical feats which he considers. Some of these problems could have been alleviated by setting the present day parts of 'Legacy' in 1995 or even 2000.

There is something else in the book whose significance escaped me the first time I read it - the episode in which Guillam befriends Liz Gold before she starts working in the library where she will meet Alex Leamas. I'm not sure exactly what the point of this is: it might be that the Circus was setting up Gold to meet Leamas - but elsewhere it states that Gold had been working in the library for several months before Leamas turned up, which implies that the planning had been in motion for quite some time. This part simply does not ring true and seems an unnecessary embroidery. I will have to read it again - when I am not running a fever - to see whether there is something that I have missed.

Basically, what I am saying about this book is that apart from its enjoyment factor, casting light on the background of an operation (this part is truly fascinating), author Le Carré seems not to have done his homework, and in the attempt to add interest has added things which are demonstrably incorrect. Presumably not every one reads the books with such an analytical mind.

Correcting something which I wrote before, according to 'The spy who came in from the cold', Karl Riemeck worked in the secretariat of the Praesidium of the East German Communist Party, and was codenamed Mayfair. This jibes with what is written in 'Legacy'.

I am not the only person who has commented on George Smiley's age. Author Le Carré says in a recent interview "he’s [Smiley] said all he has to say. Also, he’s about 120".

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A legacy of spies

Taking advantage of a viral infection (headache, sneezing, sore throat and weakness), I had the time to read the new John le Carré book, "A legacy of spies", today. I will have to read it again in order to more fully appreciate it, but already there are several items which make reading it difficult. The book is presented as a prequel to 'The spy who came in from the cold', and also 'Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy'. This book is definitely a prequel to the earlier book, basically examining the decision process in launching Alex Leamas' attempt to discredit Mundt (you'll have to read the book to find out who these people are), but connections to the later book are tenuous. I reread 'The spy who came in from the cold' earlier today, as I don't know this too well.

As a dedicated Le Carré watcher, there are several points which differ between the original book and this one:
  • The time scale: 'The Spy' is set in 1962 whereas 'Tinker Tailor is set in 1973. I very much doubt that Control et al. had their doubts about a traitor in 1961, before the events of 'The Spy'.
  • Karl Riemack in 'The Spy' is secretary of the GDP Secretariat; here he is a medical doctor. This is a very important plot point.
  • The butcher which Alec Leamas attacks in 'The Spy' has now become a grocer.
  • Jim Prideaux (and Bill Haydon) went to Oxford University, not Cambridge.
I am sure that there are a few more things, but they don't stick out. The second point above is the most important, but it shows that no copy editor performed due diligence on the book. 

Now to bed to rest for a few hours.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Casualty - one (tv series)

I've been watching the BBC TV series 'Casualty' since 2008; this programme is characterised as a 'medical drama', even though it borders on being a soap opera. The definition of the latter is 'a serial drama on television or radio that examines the lives of many characters, usually focusing on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama'; 'Casualty' seems to escape this definition by focusing as much on the patients arriving at the emergency room as the ER's staff. It is also a weekly drama whereas most 'soaps' are daily.

Over the years, the quality of the scripts and stories has naturally varied, although normally a high standard is maintained. Lately, the story arc has been somewhat uninteresting, or maybe drawn out too long, which has been disappointing, but every now and then there is a very good episode.

Yesterday we watched the closing episode of series 31, "One". The title of this episode has nothing to do with the stories contained within, but rather refers to the fact that the entire episode consists of one shot, with no editing. It took me a few minutes to pick up on this fact. As the trivia for this episode says, The whole of this episode was filmed as one single, unedited take on a single camera, following events around the Casualty department in real time as they happened. It placed great demands on the professionalism and skills of the cast and crew, since it was filmed as-live. During rehearsals it was found that, even using the lightest camera that gave acceptable picture quality, the camera operator became tired during the 48-minute single take, causing his hands (and therefore the shot) to begin to shudder. To avoid this, they perfected a technique of one camera operator handing the camera to another one while filming without this being noticeable.

I have often wondered how the episodes are filmed: do they film complete story-lines within each episode then edit them together? Are several episodes filmed continuously then edited? Multi-camera? However the episodes are filmed, I have to doff my hat at the technical excellence of this episode (the story lines were so-so). I also wonder about how they managed to record the dialogue so well: sometimes people could be heard talking when they were almost off-screen, then walked into the shot. Presumably this was handled in post-production. Assuming that everyone had a personal microphone, they were very well hidden. Some people's costumes (mainly scrubs) didn't leave much room for a microphone, however small it may be.

There's more details in this interview: To ensure filming went as smoothly as possible, the cast and crew had three weeks to rehearse, practicing scenes in blocks before piecing the episode together until it could be shot seamlessly ... The camera even goes within a moving ambulance, and at one point the cameraman was hooked up to a harness and thrown over a balcony to get the right shot.

Another interview with actress Amanda Mealing casts a little more light on the production process: "... I sit down with my scripts and read through my scenes for the week ahead. Sometimes we film four or five different episodes of Casualty in a week, so I need to know my lines".

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The DVD recorder returns!

After an extremely long wait (it took me a week to take the DVD from my house to my son-in-law's, a 200 metre walk, it took him over a week to take the DVD to the repair shop, it took them nearly two weeks to make the repair and then another week for my son-in-law to collect the machine...), the DVD recorder has now been reinstalled at home. I made the wrong connections at first but afterwards sorted everything out, so now the television can display either directly from Yes Max (tivo) or from the DVD, which can record from Yes Max. I have yet to connect the old video recorder to the dvd as I am lacking a cable for this. There isn't much justification for this as there are very few videos which I want to transfer to dvd and haven't done so yet.

I have a large backlog of programmes to be recorded: the second season of 'Madam Secretary' (this will be 22-23 episodes!), the ninth series of 'New Tricks' (eight episodes), a four part series about children's literature, 'Sing Street', 'Bird on a wire' and probably a few other programmes. I can record a 40 minute programme early in the morning - between me getting up and leaving for work - but the films and longer programmes will have to wait for the weekend.

This machine is going to see some heavy work over the next few weeks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Submitting an outline

A month ago, I wrote that my university has returned me to the initial stage of doctoral candidacy. During that month I have been twiddling my thumbs, waiting to hear that someone has been assigned to me as a supervisor so that I can submit my new research proposal. I have to admit that I have fast been losing any loyalty to my university and so investigated by means of shallow web searches whether it might be better to start afresh at a different university. None of the doctoral programmes which I checked seemed suitable, and all of them are more expensive than my current option, so I haven't gone any further with this. I ignored any sites which appeared to award degrees in return for money.

Finally last night I received an email from the doctoral programme administrator: "please submit a 3-4 page outline of your intended research, so that I can shop it around and find a suitable supervisor". So I took the 16 page research proposal (which I had already reduced from a 32 page intermediate submission) and edited it brutally, resulting in a four page document, including only a few references. I didn't change any of the wording, but simply left out a great deal. Maybe now things will get moving again.

At least I don't have to pay supervision fees for this stage: I wrote previously to the administrator that I had received very little supervision over the past year, requesting a significant discount. I am also hoping that the period between now and having the research proposal accepted will be short (which would make the fees expensive). Last time, it took from the beginning of March until the end of August (six months), which I was told is fast. I intend to shorten that time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Road 38 is brought into the 21th century!

Until about six years ago, every morning I would drive out of the kibbutz gates at about 6:45 am, continue about 1 km to the junction between our side road and Road 38, and then take my chances with the heavy traffic for about 3.5 km until I got to the turn off which leads to the industrial region where my factory is situated. Even at this early hour, the road would be congested; there was one place where three lanes of traffic converge into one, which was always a bottleneck. Although I could alleviate this somewhat by driving on the road's shoulder (after all, I am riding a motorbike), the ride was seriously unpleasant. The turn off to the industrial region was to the left, meaning that I had to wait for a break in the opposing traffic before turning - another surge of adrenaline and probably cortisone. Coming back was slightly easier, as the two left turns had now become right turns, but frequently I got caught by a train entering the station at about 16:40 (I had to negotiate two level crossings).

On 18/10/11 (I remember this date well because it was the day that Gil'ad Shalit was released from captivity), a back road was opened which meandered through areas set aside for new industrial areas, before connecting to an entrance to the regional school, which is very close to my house. I immediately adopted this route as no one else seemed to know about it. It was very quiet, shorter and generally stress-free. It also avoided the train. At the end of 2013, I wrote about this route, although neglected to add that a few months later, I discovered that I had indeed fractured my thumb. The surface of the road has gotten worse over the years and is now full of potholes and other things to avoid, which made the journey uncomfortable. One section - albeit only a few hundred metres - required extreme concentration.

Over the years, the industrial areas have filled out and traffic on the back road has gotten heavier. At the same time, huge improvements have been planned and implemented on Road 38. The final stage - as far was we were concerned - was completed on Thursday. This followed a few days of almost complete chaos and very heavy traffic on what should be a country lane.

On Thursday afternoon, I returned home on the new road: even better than before, there is now a turn-off before the one to the kibbutz, which connects to part of my previous route. Obviously the new road, but also the part of the old road which leads to the regional school is in good condition, so the journey was a pleasure. This morning I repeated the experience: barely another car did I see, and of course I was able to travel reasonably fast as I didn't have to dodge holes and whatever on the road.

I think that the journey has shortened slightly: it appears to be slightly less than the previous 4.5 km. I'll measure it again today. Fuel efficiency may also be increased, but the main thing is that the ride has ceased to be stress inducing, and is now invigorating.

I imagine that all other users of Road 38 are also very happy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

One second of fame

A few weeks ago, two youngsters from the kibbutz came into our flat with a strange request: they wanted to film us separately singing a phrase from a popular Israeli song, acapella. It took a few minutes for this to sink in, but eventually my wife was filmed singing one phrase, and I was filmed singing another. Afterwards, they explained that they were going to make a montage of all the people singing, so that there would be a complete song. The things people do to make publicity for our local people (hangout of the under-thirties).

Yesterday everyone on the kibbutz was sent a message, saying that the film had been uploaded to YouTube. I tried watching it on my phone, but it was very difficult to make anything out. Today I watched it on my computer, of course looking out for myself. I can be found at about 1:51, in the middle; if you watch and see a cow in the middle, then go back a second and you will see me there, wearing a pale green shirt.

Here is my one second of fame.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Friend leaving work

I have always felt ambivalent about someone leaving 'the framework' - if it was the youth movement, the kibbutz or the company. Obviously, there have been many cases of people leaving which have not had any effect on me, and some cases where I have been pleased that the person has left, but there have been those cases where someone close to me has left.

A colleague - and one of my few personal friends at work - is leaving today, after 11 years. We have worked together closely during most of those years and I would like to think that we advanced the company a great deal. We complemented each other's talents and that synergy is what fueled the advances.

Naturally, I am ambivalent about his leaving: on the one hand, I understand that he has to do what is the correct thing for him (i.e. he has to put himself first). On the other hand, I fear that those who will replace him lack the knowledge and foresight to truly replace him, and so I don't want him to go. Obviously I wish him luck.

I don't know how I will feel in a month's time (or more): I suspect that there will be a lack of technical advance, which will be a shame, but is not particularly my problem. I also suspect that there will be a weakening of my ties to the company.

The new package of Theanine arrived yesterday; as I expected, I had very vivid dreams during the night, and today I've been yawning all the time (although this may also be due to a lack of general activity). Coincidentally or not, I was dreaming about going to Fairport's Cropredy Festival, which happens to start today. I have to admit that that most of the dream was quite different from the reality, although the general theme of the dream was about the festival. A real coincidence is that the music accompanying my morning walk came from The Albion Band's "Battle of the field" album, on which play three Fairporters. Not a total coincidence, but close enough.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Dealing with angry people shouting at me on the telephone

Unfortunately, I sometimes have to deal with angry people shouting at me on the telephone. I understand that their anger probably is due to frustration with Priority, when they are apparently unable to perform some function. I get the feeling that my usual reaction - that there is no real problem - only increases their frustration. Whilst I am good at solving problems in Priority, I am not so good at calming people down, and I tend to begin shouting back at them ... which solves nothing.

I often tell these people to send me an email, telling me what the problem is, along with full details. Sometimes this is sufficient, but frequently those who shout at me tend not to be able to write very well - which is why they phoned me in the first place.

I lack the tools to deal with these people on the phone. Should I let them rant at length until they get tired, and then ask a pertinent question? It is my experience that these people don't answer the question that I ask, but continue ranting.

Obviously, I had a case like this today. Someone (a Russian) called me, full of frustration, saying that he couldn't update a warehouse transfer. As I was in the middle of something when he called, I asked him to send me the number of the transfer. About ten minutes later, I received his email and checked the transfer: it was at a status which allows updates, and I even changed a few values to be certain that there was no other problem (I changed them back to their original values). I wrote and told him this. 

A few minutes later, he calls me back, even more enraged. I try to ask him something - more rage. I try to explain (not being very successful in holding back my own rage) that it would be better if I ask questions and try and help on the basis of the answers to those questions. He reluctantly agrees, but after I ask my next question, he continues ranting. I don't bother answering; I hang up - which should be inexcusable, but seems to be the only thing that I can do.

I then send another letter, explaining again that the transfer is editable, and that he should cite the part number which is giving him problems. I have yet to receive an answer (this was several hours ago). I would like to think that he tried to update the transfer and discover that he was able to, and so felt no need to communicate with me further. I should point out that this is someone with whom I have very little contact and is geographically remote from me.

It often happens that people say to me (calmly!) that they have a problem; when I talk them through whatever they are doing, the problem magically goes away. I call this the 'white coat syndrome', after the strange effect that a doctor's white coat has on patients' blood pressure. Practically, it comes down to paying more attention when doing something. But the frustration often causes less attention, which leads to more problems....

Again, my problem is how to calm these people down sufficiently in order to talk them through what needs to be done. I inflame their anger instead of dousing it. Maybe I would be better at this if I had more practice! I should ask someone to make angry phone calls to me every day ... but then of course, if the anger is faked, then my attempts to defuse the situation will be ignored.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Theanine again

I have written a few times about the food supplement theanine. What I apparently have not mentioned is that I have been buying it from the online shop iHerb, along with stinging nettle tea, mint chocolate and peanut butter. Normally this shop supplies orders very quickly, but my last order - from the end of May - went missing. After waiting and waiting and waiting, I eventually got in contact with the shop and told them about the non-delivery; they credited me with the cost. Of course, a week later, the small parcel turned up! In the interim, I have bought stinging nettle tea from the local health shop (who didn't stock it for several months) and so don't feel any burning need to order anything from iHerb.

I have run out of theanine and have yet to re-order; I have been wondering for some time whether I would feel any effects of not taking this supplement. Based on my experiences of the past few days, theanine definitely makes a difference. I wrote ten months ago 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 wouldn't describe my current feeling as despondent, but I have definitely been feeling stressed out in the past few days and under a great deal of pressure. Little things - like the wording of some people's emails - are enough to annoy me, with that feeling persisting for several hours.

So it would seem that I definitely need theanine! 

I wonder whether I should increase the daily intake from 150mg to 200mg. The picture above shows what I have been buying until now; this has a good balance between price per capsule and number of capsules (the fewer the capsules, the more frequently I have to order thus paying more shipping costs). All of the other options show only 60 capsules per bottle, which means ordering once every two months.  I think I will 'splash out' and buy a bottle with 120 capsules, each containing 200mg - then I won't have to order for four months. This would definitely be cheaper than buying two bottles of 60 capsules of 200mg. I may be concerned about my health but I'm also concerned about my pocket.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Donating blood (3)

I went to give blood yesterday evening. The last time I tried, I was disqualified as my haemoglobin level was slightly too low. This time I didn't even get as far as having my haemoglobin measured: I was disqualified on a technicality. I don't know what the procedure is like in other countries, but here first one fills out a questionnaire, then a medic (?) goes over the questionnaire and checks answers, then one's blood pressure and haemoglobin level is measured. One is  permitted to give blood only if the two checking stations give their permission.

The questionnaire contains all manner of personal details, including visits abroad, previous illnesses, sexual practices (I used to comment that homosexuality is banned whereas bestiality is fine - because there's no question about sex with animals), medication, etc. Some of these questions are designed to save the donor from problems and some are designed to obtain 'good' blood. It often seems that despite the desire to obtain as many blood donations as possible, there is a counter-intention to block as many 'inferior' donations as possible (my term). One question asks about invasive procedures in the past six months: as I had an endoscopy two months ago with biopsy, I am disqualified.

It doesn't matter that the endoscopy and the biopsy showed that everything is ok; the biopsy is performed with a utensil which is used many times (although obviously being sterilised between patients) and so is a no-no for the ultra strict requirements of blood donation.

I decided several years ago that I would stop even trying to donate blood after two successive rejections. Well, those two rejections have now occurred and so I recuse myself from ever giving blood again.

In this case, something trumps altruism.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mobile CPAP

This is more of a memo to myself for future reference rather than recording an experience.

I saw today in the paper an advert for a mobile CPAP machine. It's strange that I even noticed this as normally I skip over all the adverts without looking at them. The machine is a Transcend EZEX miniCPAP™ machine, which apparently is only slightly larger than a soft drink can. In America, one can purchase it for $480, whereas in Israel it would cost 4900 NIS - a ridiculous rate of exchange! On the other hand, medical insurance would pay 75% of the cost, meaning that I would have to pay 1225 NIS, which is about $300. 

This machine is meant for people who travel around and don't have access to electricity (it can run either from the mains or from an internal battery). I don't go on camping trips so this is not an advantage for me. The only reason that I can think of for buying this machine is that I don't have to take my heavy and bulky machine with me when I go on holiday. If I were to fly low-cost to Naples for a weekend in Sorrento (EasyJet are now adding such flights) or even to Edinburgh, then I wouldn't have to sacrifice space and weight for the machine - I could just pop this in my pocket. Of course, the hose is still the same size.

Reviews are mixed. It would be good as a spare machine if I traveled more. At the moment, this doesn't sound like a good argument. Also, medical insurance would only pay for one machine and I don't think that I would want this as my sole support of night time breathing.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sing Street (2) - A few more observations

A few more observations which I forgot the first time around.

As the excellent quality of the music irks me, so does the fact that the group's videos are supposedly filmed with a hand-held super 8 camera (such devices are hard to find now). Hand-held - but no shaking; edits - exactly how are they achieved? Too much nit-picking on my behalf.

The excellent tv tropes site lists one of its tropes "Gilligan cut" as basically when someone says that they're not going to do something, and then the next moment shows them do exactly what they said they wouldn't do. There are two nice examples in the film, which strangely enough to not appear on the tropes page for this film: at the beginning when Conor meets Eamon, they're having tea but decide to move to the shed for further discussion. Eamon's mother says "Remember: no smoking", and Eamon says that he's told her that he doesn't smoke. Cut to shed, where Eamon, Damon and Conor are all puffing away. 

There's an almost Gilligan cut later on when Conor shows Eamon an A4 sheet advertising the end-of-term dance, with 'DJ and Lights'. "We could do a short set", says Conor. Eamon disagrees, mentioning that he has to revise for exams. "Will there be girls?", he asks. Conor say yes, then Eamon says "Then we're playing". Cut to exam room: all six members of the group, along with Barry, their nemesis, appear to be totally lost when they see the exam paper.

With regard to smoking, the first half has almost everybody in the film smoking, although this tapers off towards the end. But strangely for this kind of Irish film, nobody swears (except for exactly one example)! The Commitments swear more than they smoke, and they smoke more than they drink.

I really enjoy this film when I allow myself to let reality slip a little.

Final trivia: as noted before, the group is named after a pun on the name of the school they attend which is named after Irish playwright J. M. Synge. Quote: Walsh-Peelo's [Conor] father attended the actual Christian Brothers School on Synge Street, as did creator John Carney. To fully square the circle, the real school was used as a film location. Carney has stated that he needed to get it as it's too famous in Ireland to believably double.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sing Street

Several years ago, I saw the film 'Once', directed by John Carney: I found it enjoyable and very realistic. To quote the very short description on IMDB, "A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story". Apart from anything else, the film stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, otherwise known as The Swell Season. A song from the film, "Falling slowly" won the Oscar for best song! I don't think it's that good, but never mind. I wrote about the film here.

A few years ago, I turned on the television and saw a film which had already started; the first line which I heard was something about Randy Newman. Of course, I had to watch the rest of the film then record it properly when it was shown again. This was 'Begin again', directed by John Carney: I found this also very enjoyable but slightly less realistic. "A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter, new to Manhattan, turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents". This film presumably had a much larger budget as it features 'name' actors such as Mark Ruffalo (the music producer), Keira Knightley (the songwriter - she doesn't consider herself a performer at first), Catherine Keeler, James Corden and Hailee Steinfeld. I don't seem to have written about this film before.

A few days ago, I was perusing the listings for what is to be shown on television (after missing the beginning of an interesting film, 'God help the girl') and discovered that a new film by John Carney would be shown. In Hebrew, it's called something like 'The 80s club', but its real name is 'Sing Street'. Once again quoting IMDB, "A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes". Once again, enjoyable, but the least realistic of all three films. Six teenagers - supposedly aged 14-15 - get together to form a band with the eponymous name, which is actually a pun on the name of the school they attend - Synge Street. Some of them look their (onscreen) age whereas some ... don't. The 'mysterious' girl is supposed to be 16 (the actress was born in 1994 - and is actually American! - so she would have been about 20 when filming); sometimes she looks that age and sometimes looks much older. The little guy with carrot coloured hair on the far right of the picture below was born in 2000, so he was playing his own age.

Apart from the various anachronisms pointed out at IMDB (which don't really distract from the film), what really irks me is the quality of the songs that this group produce, in terms of both songwriting and performance. 'They' are really good and hold their own against 'real' songs which appear on the soundtrack (Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall and Oates, Joe Jackson) - totally unrealistic. No feedback, no missed cues, no out of time playing (although their very first recording has an appropriate and bad ending), everything mixed perfectly. The film takes place in about 1984/5, and the recordings are supposedly made with a simple cassette recorder! In 1974, I had a stereo tape deck with external microphones which could record better, but there were still plenty of extraneous noises.

The lead character (Conor) is somewhat chameleon-like, changing appearance to match whomever he is listening to at the time (there's one sequence where he starts looking like Robert Smith of The Cure). In the above picture, he's the one looking like Dracula, naturally at the front. The Lennon to this character's McCartney is called Eamon: he looks like John Lennon probably looked thirty years earlier although musically he's McCartney (plays many instruments). Actually, he looks more like Robert Fripp would have looked like when RF was 15 (blue suit, standing to the left of the girl).

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Guitar corner

We've seen this corner of the music room before, but that was before the 12 string guitar was hung on the wall. Left to right  are the Ovation Applause, Washburn HB-25 and Fender 12-string. Actually there is a fourth guitar in this picture: below the Ovation is a picture of me playing my first good guitar (bought in Cardiff, 1973). Judging by the length and colour of my hair, this picture was taken in the early 1990s, but I can't be sure.

The piece of wood attached to the wall underneath the 12 string is a fold-up shelf on which can be placed my laptop computer: ideal for recording.

I have noticed that several photos which I have taken with my mobile phone indoors have strange colouring; this picture originally wasn't too bad (the white wall came out bluish), but one picture which I took in Rodos seemed entirely black. I use a comparatively simple program called IrfanView as a picture editor: this has a function called 'auto adjust colors' which radically improves these pictures. I don't know on what basis the colours are adjusted, but the final results are very good and are much closer to what the eye sees in the original scene.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sleeping in the ground

Whilst mooching around the Kindle store, buying the book about "Rubber soul", I checked whether the new Peter Robinson book was available. Indeed it is, so I swiftly downloaded it and began reading.

As has been his habit over the past few years, Peter Robinson's latest book, "Sleeping in the ground", is named after a song - in this case, by Blind Faith. There seems to be no connection whatsoever between the song and the novel.

A very brief description of the beginning (not written by me): It's a beautiful day for a wedding. But suddenly shots are fired and both wedding party members as well as guests are left dead and bleeding. It takes the police as well as emergency vehicles longer than normal to get to the dying, bleeding and wounded. By the time they do ... the shooter is gone ... there is no sign of him anywhere. Inspector Banks ... on his way home from a funeral ... ends up at the crime scene where there is confusion as well as chaos. No one has seen any sign of the shooter except perhaps a youth staying at a hostel. But a conversation with him leads Inspector Banks and his team nowhere. Please, no longer Inspector Banks (that should be Chief Inspector) but rather Superintendent Banks.

I don't want to write about the story very much, for fear of giving away the plot and whatever surprises it holds. Instead, I'll write about the cast. DS Winsome Jackson is 'disposed' of, right from the start: she's one of the people who are shot at the wedding, but not seriously injured. She goes home to Jamaica to recover and so doesn't really appear in the novel. Annie Cabbot appears but doesn't get much internal dialogue, if at all. Alan Banks has plenty of internal dialogue, but it's about an old girl-friend who, to the best of my knowledge, has never been referenced in any of the books. His poet friend from the last book, Linda Palmer, makes only a brief appearance [I didn't notice this before, but Linda Palmer is the name a good friend of mine used during her first marriage]. 

One interesting character is Ray Cabbot, Annie's father, who has decided to move to the area and buy a cottage. He stays with Alan Banks, as Annie's cottage is very small. He doesn't really add anything to the story, but makes the background more interesting. If anything, he functions more like Alan's wife, preparing food which other characters then eat. There is some reference to his artistic ability (in fact, he makes a key drawing, saving a police artist from doing so), but he could easily have been dropped from the book.

Psychologist Jenny Fuller returns: she appeared in many of the early books, providing extra-marital temptation for Alan Banks (which is never fulfilled). I don't remember exactly when she disappeared from the cast, but I think it was shortly after Annie appeared. Temptation once again rears its ugly head, but it seems that this time Banks and Fuller are prepared to let bygones be bygones and not get involved. A few senior superintendents also make appearances but they are peripheral to the story.

The star this time is DC Gerry Masterson, who makes most of the running. The final chapters belong to her, she has most of the insights and even delivers a briefing. She also betrays her inexperience in a similar manner to Winsome in "Abattoir Blues". One description of her reveals a new fact: she's six foot tall. I don't remember her height being mentioned in any of her earlier appearances.

It's a good book but not outstanding. Most of the time the police are wandering about, unable to find any lead to whoever the shooter is. After a great deal of patience and some good ideas, they finally get some leads, and only then does the pace escalate. So I suppose one needs a great deal of patience to read this book. Faint but damning praise.

There's a mention of a girl singing Richard Thompson's "Farewell, farewell" in memory of those killed at the wedding; Sandy Denny is referenced. Otherwise, all of the music seems to be classical (certainly no Blind Faith, despite the presence of Ray).

I admit that I am sorely tempted to create a chart of which characters appear in which books, but that won't help me appreciate the series any more than I currently do.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

This Bird Has Flown: The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul

A few years ago, I bought from the Kindle Store a book about the Beatles' album, "Revolver" ("Revolver: how the Beatles re-imagined Rock'n'Roll", by Robert Rodrigues). The book is divided into three parts: a description of the period into which "Revolver" was introduced, descriptions of all the songs (including the 'scoop' that the bass on "She said, she said" was played by George Harrison after Paul McCartney walked out of the session) and the reaction to "Revolver". I found this book fascinating as it contained many details which aren't in any of my other Beatles books.

On this basis, it is easy to understand why I ordered the book "This bird has flown" yesterday after I came across it on the Internet, looking at the Wiki entry for "Norwegian Wood" (which is a song which I have been playing frequently in the past few days with my new 12-string guitar). As always, I am amazed at the speed and ease of buying a book for the Kindle. The book cost $10.99, which is quite expensive for what might be considered a vanity book.

I read about half of the book yesterday and gave up in frustration: instead of the neat ordering of the "Revolver" book and the critical facilities displayed by its author, this one was all over the place. There is confusion as to whether the book is referencing the British or American versions of "Rubber Soul" (probably both); there is very little about the period preceding "Rubber Soul", but there are all kinds of references to events which happened much later (for example, the sniping between Lennon and McCartney at the time of the latter's "Ram" album). 

It seems that there is very little about "Rubber Soul" itself, but rather a hodge-podge consisting of well-known facts and lesser known suppositions about the Beatles. Descriptions and writings about the songs themselves - which is why I bought the book - are conspicuously lacking, being replaced by other material (for example, why Eric Clapton plays on "Why my guitar gently weeps").

I cannot recommend this book to anyone. So why did I buy it? Because the preface - which is available for reading on the Amazon site - seemed reasonably interesting. I will be posting a negative review there in the next few days.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Back to the beginning

After a long period of waiting, it has been decided by the powers that be that I have to be returned to the beginning of the DBA process. Obviously I don't have to resit exams, but I do have to submit a research proposal, have it accepted, then submit an intermediate submission etc. I am not very happy about this although I can understand the reasons for this decision. 

As I've already done a fair amount of the work required for the intermediate submission in April, it wasn't too difficult to sit down for a few hours and take what is needed in order to create a research proposal. I went over it very closely a few times today, deleting material which is irrelevant and rearranging what is not. I imagine that I will be assigned a new mentor for the research proposal (my previous mentor is probably sick and tired of me) and then hopefully I can submit the proposal within a few weeks.

One used to be able to see when the research committee meetings are, but the university's website appears to have been redesigned and I can't find that information. It will be my luck to have the proposal in a form ready for submission only to discover that I have to wait another six weeks. Actually, that isn't very likely to happen as the mentor will tell me when the next committee will be.

Just to recap, here is the abstract. Existing literature shows that there are gaps between the standard functionality provided by Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and the specific functionality required by implementing organisations. These gaps, known as misfits, are closed by means of enhancements – changes enabled in the system beyond the initial implementation configuration. As business is dynamic, the longer a company is in the post-implementation phase, the greater the need for further enhancements which were not envisaged during the initial implementation. These enhancements can vary in complexity from innovative uses of existing functionality through to the addition of complete, bespoke, modules. Each enhancement should produce a benefit which can ultimately be translated into monetary savings. This research is aimed at Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and is restricted to those using the Priority ERP system. This research utilises the case study approach, being based on interviews with managers and users from multiple companies.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

12 string guitar: the basics

In conversation with my family, I realised that they don't know what a 12 string guitar is and what makes it special. On this basis, I imagine that most of my readership doesn't know either, so I have decided to write a few words of explanation.

A regular six string guitar with standard tuning is tuned (from bottom to top) E - A - D - G - B - E. Apart from the G-B gap, all the strings are tuned in fourths. Questions have been asked on the Internet as to why the intervals are fourths, except for one; the explanation seems to be that this tuning was settled on after decades of trials, as it allows for the easy formation of chords. Tuning the top two strings a semitone higher (thus preserving intervals of fourths over the entire guitar) apparently makes for very difficult chord shapes. A bass guitar has only four strings: these are tuned as the same as the bottom four strings on a guitar but an octave lower.

Since the early 1960s, people have experimented with alternative tunings, such as 'DADGAD', dropped D and open G (Keith Richards). Robert Fripp developed a 'new standard tuning' which is fifths. Joni Mitchell rarely played in standard tuning (as a side effect of the polio from which she suffered as a child) and so developed special tunings: almost every one of her songs has a different tuning.

A mandolin has eight strings: two 'courses' of four strings, which are tuned (from bottom to top) G - D - A - E, which are intervals of fifths. Each string is doubled, which gives the mandolin its special sound; frequently the two strings for each note are slightly out of tune, which gives a chorus effect. One of the bazoukis which I was shown in Rodos has six strings, two courses of three, tuned A - D - A.

After that lengthy introduction, we can now turn to the twelve string guitar. Like the mandolin and the bazouki, this guitar has its strings doubled (that's why there are twelve strings and not six). But instead of tuning the strings in unison (mandolin and bazouki), the bottom four strings are tuned in octaves (the top two are in unison). This is what gives the twelve string its characteristic sound, and is why I wrote yesterday that I will have to learn how to play single note parts on the lower strings.

Where can the twelve string be heard? As a child of the 60s, I instinctively think of the "A Hard Day's Night" album, where George Harrison can clearly be heard  playing a twelve string. The nascent Byrds saw the film and heard the music; they turned the twelve string into the dominant sound of their earlier songs. The first line up of Genesis used acoustic twelve strings. Apparently Tom Petty uses a twelve string guitar but I am not familiar with his work. Fairport used a twelve string occasionally, played by Simon Nicol: the opening riff on "Come all ye" and "Run, Johnny, Run" spring to mind. In fact, Simon used to claim that the reason that he was asked to join Fairport in 1967 was that he had a twelve string guitar!

Friday, July 14, 2017

The deed is done (12 string guitar)

The deed is done, the purchase has been made. After a few months of dreaming and a few weeks of planning, the stars aligned, allowing us to drive to the guitar shop near Modi'in (about half an hour away) and purchase the Fender CD-160SE 12-String V-2 which we saw at the end of May. 

As opposed to last time, I played the guitar for quite some time, and discovered that this guitar requires a different technique from what I am used to. Whilst the guitar is very comfortable, it's hard on the left hand, pressing on all the strings. My right hand technique also has to change: I would like to finger-pick, but that doesn't work too well; it's easier with a plectrum. The problem is to pick the first string of each pair, which is the octave string; this way, one achieves the characteristic sound of the 12 string. And finally: for solo note playing (lead guitar), it is better to concentrate on the lower four strings (which have the octaves) as opposed to the top two strings (which are in unison).

I have been reading and listening about the 12 string over the past few weeks, getting prepared - which is why the first thing that I played was the riff to the Byrds' version of 'Mr Tambourine Man'. Apparently McGuinn's 12-string was recorded with compression (there's also a story about Steven Still's guitar being compressed for the CS&N record) so I was interested in hearing what this actually sounds like. To be honest, there didn't seem to be much of a difference, except for a strange sounding attack, so I decided not to buy a compression pedal.

I took along my Dia violin bass as this requires repair work. The shop salesman (Adam) took the bass and played happily for several minutes: as opposed to my previous attempts, the electrics worked, although at the end we discovered that there is indeed a loose wire inside which causes the pickups to disconnect intermittently. Adam was very taken with the bass - especially the dampener - and said that he was prepared to buy it; my wife refused politely. As I may have written before, part of the binding is missing and so the back of the bass is separating from the body. Although I had been told that the shop takes repair work, it transpires that they handle only goods which have been purchased from the shop. I was given the address of a luthier in Tel Aviv; I will try and send him pictures via email or WhatsApp before going there, as it may well be that the cost of repair is more than the guitar is worth.

It turns out that the owner of the shop knew us: he spent time on our previous kibbutz in the mid-80s as part of his army service. He also knows the person who gave me the bass during that time. His knowing us (or having known us) may have suggested to him to discount the price - or throw in a freebee.

I took the opportunity to try out a few other, iconic, guitars which were in easy reach of where I was sitting. Behind me on a stand was a stratocaster (barely visible in the photograph on the right hand side); I found this quite difficult to play, although of course I am an acoustic guitarist who plays primarily rhythm. I also tried out the telecaster (just above my right elbow in the picture): I have always belittled this guitar, partially because of its look and partially because everyone seems to play it (in other words, non-professional reasons). When I picked it up, I was surprised at its light weight, and as opposed to the strat, it was very comfortable to play. I can now understand its ubiquity. 

I also picked up the Gibson SG (directly above my head in the picture) and showed it to my wife, asking if it looked familiar. She recognised that I have a copy of this guitar in the music room, and asked how it could be that guitar makers can produce a blatant copy of an expensive guitar. I don't know whether the penny has dropped about the bass guitar and Paul McCartney's iconic Hofner violin bass, but then, she isn't interested in guitars.

The bottom line of these last two paragraphs is that most electric guitars don't feel comfortable in my hands - although I wouldn't refuse the tele - and so I don't have any intentions of buying any more guitars. Just as well as there is no free wall space!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Room hiring service design

Giving a small glance into one facet of the work which I perform, I was approached to design a database for a room hiring service, to be implemented in Priority. At first glance, this appears to be the same as a hotel management system: there are rooms which are booked from date until date, each room with its own price. This is fairly standard, although the date handling can be tricky. But what makes this system stand out is the fact that whilst some rooms are 'private', other rooms are 'communal' - a big room could hold fifty workstations, where someone can hire a workstation for a few days. Thus an order for such a workstation would leave the room 'vacant', and other people can hire a workstation in the same room for the same dates. A field will need to be added to the 'parts' table to represent this (1 would indicate 'private', whereas any other value would indicate the number of workstations in the room).

Based on the constraint that the implementation will be in Priority (which simplifies certain things but forces one to work within the framework of Priority), my first decision is that 'each room is a part'. This allows us to use the standard 'orders' screen in Priority, along with the 'order items' screen. Let's see what functionality exists, what has to be added, and where there are problems.

Assuming that there is a part with catalogue number 'ROOM01', a customer can hire this room, stating the period during which the room is to be hired. The 'orderitems' table has a field called duedate, which can represent the date the room is to be vacated, but a field has to be added to represent the starting date (it's definitely not equal to the date the order is opened!). Checking whether the room is vacant during this period is not as easy as it sounds. One approach would be to check whether there exists a record in the orderitems table for this room which straddles the starting date - if there is such a record, then the room cannot be hired. If the starting date is free, then the vacating date has to be checked in the same manner. Unfortunately this check would ignore the possibility that the room has been ordered for a smaller period, falling between the start and end date of this request. I'll leave this aside for the moment.

The room has its default price, so the total price for this line would be this default price times the number of days, which would be 1 + (the leaving date less the arrival date). The number of days would be stored in the quantity field, allowing the total price to be calculated automatically. This last statement implies that the quantity field should be read-only, which is not the case of the standard order items screen.

Priority does not allow fields to be set as read-only at run time, dependent on other fields. While the status of this field could be set in advance, it will be problematic if the user wants to use this screen to insert customer orders for items which are not rooms. As this standard capability should be left as it is, I am tending to suggest that a customised order items screen be used for room ordering, which implies that the order should have a specific type: an error message will be displayed if the user tries to enter the standard order items screen when the order type is 'Rooms', and vice versa.

The owners want to have a daily price, a weekly price and a monthly price. Priority allows multiple prices for the same part, based on a minimum quantity, so three rows can be entered for each part, with prices for quantity 1 (e.g. $50), 8 ($45) and 29 ($40). The appropriate price will appear automatically in the order line dependent on the number of days. Whilst this seems very good, there are two overwhelming problems with it, one internal and one external. The external problem can be phrased as 'what about weekends?' - how many days is it if one orders a room for two weeks? Is this from Monday 17 July 2017 until Friday 28 July 2017? What about the weekend 22-23 July? Is a week seven days or five days? Maybe some people work on Saturdays but not on Sundays. I call this an external problem because its solution is not dependent on Priority per se, but rather a management issue. Weekends can be handled by a series of flags, which will reduce the number of days, but this is messy.

The internal problem is that all the above relates to a room as if it is a whole, and not a room with workstations which can be hired separately. This relates to the quantity: how would a order show that the customer wants to rent 2 workstations for 5 days? The first solution appears to be separating the number of days from the quantity: if the room is defined as 'single hire' (and this has to be added somehow to the parts table), then the quantity will be 1, whereas if the room is defined as 'multiple hire', then the quantity will be however many workstations are required. The mechanism which calculates the total price will have to be amended (it's good that a customised screen will be used!) to calculate 'number of workstations' times 'number of days' times 'default price'. Unfortunately, this means that the multiple prices entered into the price list will not work, as the quantity is the number of workstations and not days.

I think that it would be better not to use the standard price list mechanism, but instead use a discounting system, which would state provide a discount per number of hiring days, for example 5% discount for a minimum hire of 8 days and 10% for a minimum hire of 29 days. This system can be implemented at three different levels: on a global basis (all rooms have the same discount policy); on a 'room type' basis (all rooms of a given type have the same policy), or each room has its own policy. The discount - by whatever means it is calculated - would be inserted into the discount field of the order line. So now the total price for a given room would be: 'number of workstations' times 'number of days' times 'room price' times (100 less discount) times 0.01. Management will have to decide at which level the discounting system will work - probably all three!

Although theoretically a check should be made whilst booking a workstation that there is a free workstation within the room during the given period, I have been told to ignore this possibility. Management is happy to rent 120 workstations a day in a room which holds only 100 workstations. Fortunately, in the first paragraph of this blog, I mentioned the need to add a field to the 'parts' table which allows differentiation between 'single' and 'multiple' hires, so this field would be checked prior to the complicated vacancy check, which is to follow.

Here is the vacancy check problem: someone wants to book ROOM01 for the period 17 - 28 July (this room is a 'single' hire). As it happens, someone has already booked this room for the period 19 - 25 July. How does the program 'see' that the room is unavailable and that the request has to be denied? A naive way of doing this is as follows: after a room has been successfully booked, a series of entries is made into a 'booked room' table, where each row has a room and a date. Thus given the above, this table would have the following entries

Room numberDate

The check would start from the day before the first required date (16 July) in a loop as follows (the flag has to be set initially to 'failure'):
  1. increment date
  2. if there is an entry for this date and room in the 'booked room' table, then go to label 99
  3. loop until the current date is the same as the vacating date (28 July)
  4. set flag to 'success'
  5. label 99
Whilst this solution would work, it requires inserting values into a table, which is going to grow indefinitely. This table is not really needed, as the dates already exist in the order items table, which looks as follows

Room numberFrom dateTill date

The only difference between the code needed for these data as opposed to the earlier data is the second step, which would have to check whether the current date is in any given range. There is no particular advantage in this checking code, but the requirement to build the 'booked room' table has been obviated: a very big saving!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Maybe you want to be a bass guitarist when you grow up?

Before we went to Rodos, Shaked (the grand-daughter) was taking her first hesitant steps, but now she's walking further and longer. Her parents have yet to buy her shoes. She'll be celebrating 14 months in a few days for those who are interested in calibrating her progress.

One side effect of her walking is that there are fewer still pictures of her; these days she gets filmed walking and it's not so easy (nor interesting) to upload such video. 

The bass in the picture is very interesting: it's obviously a copy of a Hofner violin bass, but there are a few noticeable differences. The Hofner does not have f-holes whereas this bass does; the Hofner has its controls mounted on a plate whereas this one doesn't. The most intriguing modification is the bridge; there's a lever on the top (left hand) side of the bridge (it is barely visible here) which when depressed will damp the strings. All of the hits returned for 'guitar string dampener' show something which is connected to the neck, not to the bridge. I can't imagine what this system is meant to do.

The bass was made by a company called Dia, of which I have never heard. I've tried searching for this company but have not made any headway. I doubt whether the bass is worth very much, but even so, this morning I wrote to a vintage guitar site, enclosing a picture of the bass and asking whether they have any information. 

It can't be seen in the picture, but the bass needs a little work: there's a place on the back where there is no binding, and so the back has parted company slightly with the body. I tried playing the bass through an amplifier a few days ago and the sound was very crackly, so the electrics should be looked at. Mind you, this bass has been in storage since about 1983, when someone gave it to me.