Friday, September 28, 2018

Walking the dog leads to epiphanies

I've known this for a long time: walking the dog allows my mind to become unfettered, thus allowing new and surprising thoughts to enter my mind.

Today I was thinking (once more) about applying my enhancements model in my company. It occurred to me that one of the problems that we have with the salespeople is that they are paid a basic wage along with commission. It might well be that these people are loathe to participate in development meetings because they are not working on new projects while they are in meetings. This leads to the absurd that salespeople have to be compensated for their time if they participate! Everyone else is a salaried worker so they can participate in meetings all day long.

From there, I developed my thinking about the research phase for my doctorate: I realised that this has to be divided into four stages, namely
  1. Raw data collection - by means of semi-structured interviews, backed up with documents if they exist
  2. Data analysis - examining how close the practices used by the participating companies match the proposed model, paying close attention to the failed enhancement
  3. Discussing the model with the companies, showing how use of the model could have prevented the problems with the failed enhancements (this assumes that the model is 'correct'; it may get changed during stage 2)
  4. Revised raw data collection - seeing how successful were the enhancements developed by means of the model.
The methodology chapter as it currently stands only references the first stage. The 'why' of the above is derived from a quotation from one of the papers which I found the other day: The validity of a method can only be established by applicative success in practice.

As Israel is entering yet another long weekend (today is Friday and I go back to work on Tuesday), I have a few days which I can devote to writing about the four stages of the research phase.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


A few weeks ago, I was sent a letter from my university about a website, Turnitin, which provides a 'plagiarism prevention service'; yesterday I finally got around to using this site. One uploads scholastic work (i.e. turns it in) to the website which analyses the work, showing what percentage is found elsewhere. At the end, one receives a report.

I tried to upload the entire intermediate submission, but that must have been too large as the site timed out. Instead, I uploaded the rewritten chapter four, which introduces my proposed framework for managing enhancements. At first, my work received a 20% mark, although this was reduced to 16% after I defined the 'ignore direct quotes' flag. 16%?? How come? This is all my own work!

The report also provides data as to the sources of the plagiarism - it turns out that 12% (that's 72% of all the report) comes from my blog! Specifically, the material which I wrote just under a year ago when I first developed the framework. That's not plagiarism, but the site doesn't have an option (that I could see) for ignoring specific sites. This means that from now on, I will refrain from including material here which I also include in my thesis. 

The first chapter showed about 40% copied material, which was reduced slightly when I marked the 'ignore direct quotes' option. Here, there was very little material from my blog, but many quotes and paraphrases which come from multiple papers. At the moment I'm going to ignore Turnitin.

That's a shame, because yesterday I came across a paper which provided a very useful paragraph. Perhaps Turnitin will ignore it if I enclose it in quotation marks:
"Rescher (1977) divides human knowledge into two types:
(a) Theses, or "knowledge that", defining statements or assertions about the world
(b) Methods, or "knowledge how", defining ways of doing things.

Moody and Shanks (2003) argue that the major focus of scientific research has been aimed at theses, which are proved by hypotheses, whereas a different approach is required to validate methods. A hypothesis is either proven or not, whereas a method can be effective or ineffective. "Factual theses can either be established deductively from other theses or inductively from observations. The validity of a method can only be established by applicative success in practice" (Moody and Shanks, 2003, p. 624)."

This is the kind of material that I require which gives my research approach - developing a framework, comparing this to what actually happens in the real world and then verifying it by using it (as I am trying to do at work) - the academic credentials that it needs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It was 40 years ago today

On the left is a picture taken in the morning of 25 September 1978, featuring my parents and I outside their bungalow in Cyn Coed, Cardiff. In a few minutes, we will load my luggage - one suitcase, one rucksack, two guitars and a mandolin (I'm holding it in my right hand - if one looks closely, the tuning pegs can be seen) - into the car before we set off for Heathrow Airport. My parents will return home at the end of the day; I will be starting a new chapter in my life as I emigrate to Israel.

I wonder what I am wearing on my head: I don't remember ever having a straw hat (prior to Italy this year) so it can't have lasted long. I also wonder what happened to that rain coat.

Despite the fact that there were 10-12 of us emigrating this year, only myself and two others flew today as we had settled our affairs and were ready. I remember that my parents had wished that I delay my departure by another two weeks - I emigrated just before the Jewish New Year and they wished that I wait until after Yom Kippur. But I had absolutely nothing to do in Cardiff; I also had very few possessions with me - everything else was packed away.

I remember being disappointed that no fuss was made of us on the plane - I half-heartedly complained to the stewardess that we should at least be served champagne as we were the only olim on the plane (we were flying El Al). When we arrived at Lod Airport (it hadn't yet been renamed Ben Gurion), we were whisked into a side office where we received our documents as new immigrants.

At some stage we left the offices, met the friends who had come to welcome us, and drove to Kibbutz Mishmar David, which was about half an hour away, in order to begin our new lives.

Unlike so many of my friends, I have stayed in Israel and have never contemplated returning to Britain. Apart from anything else, I didn't have anything to return to, especially after my parents emigrated four years later. I get contrasting pictures about modern-day Britain: it seems to be a less welcoming place than it was 40 years ago, but I have to remember that I never lived there as an adult. True, I did spend a year working in London, but that was limited in time and I had a huge safety net behind me. 

I do not regret for one moment my decision to live in Israel.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The 'festival of booths'

I recommend reading the Wikipedia article about the festival Sukkot for those who haven't a clue what I'm writing about.

The story starts, I suppose, on Saturday morning when I was waiting for the lifeguard to open the swimming pool. Almost every week, the first three people there are Orna, Yael and myself. Orna was singing some song which she had discovered, saying that it was perfect for the short Sukkot 'ceremony' which would take place on Sunday evening. She asked whether I would be prepared to accompany her; I answered that it would not be a problem, but that she would have to send me a link to the song as the likelihood of me learning the song from her singing was low. Yael is responsible for culture on the kibbutz, so this was a done deal.

Yesterday morning I listened to the song on the computer and figured out how to play it; it wasn't very difficult although the chord sequence struck me as very weak. My major worry was in which key we would be playing, as Orna is, how can I put this diplomatically, full of enthusiasm but not so keen on the formal points of music. I assumed that she would sing in the same key as the recording, which was Gm. I decided to play the song on the 12 string guitar with a capo. She also wanted to sing another song which I vaguely knew, so whilst I could work it out fairly quickly, I wouldn't know in which key it would be until the ceremony, which was due to start at 8:30pm.

At about 7:50pm yesterday, Yael phoned me, asking whether I had a classical guitar. After the short ceremony, it was planned that a small musical group would appear, singing songs of Arik Einstein; it seemed that the guitarist had forgotten to bring his guitar (!). I said that I don't have a classical guitar, but then the guitarist got on the line and asked whether I have an amplified acoustic. Of course I do: the Ovation. Could I also bring a capo and a plectrum? No problem. I terminated the phone call only to be called again after a minute or two. Did I have a microphone available? I do, but its plug is not suitable for professional use.

I left the house with two guitars: the 12 string in its bag on my back, and the Ovation in its heavy case in my hand, along with plectra, capo and guitar leads. When I arrived at the lawn outside the dining room, I was greeted like a long lost friend. Whilst taking the Ovation out of the case, I asked how a musician could travel to a gig and forget his guitar. I received an explanation but it's not really important. Both the guitarist and the drummer had a quick play on the guitar: they said it was a good guitar, as smooth as butter to play and with a good sound. I pointed out the strangely shaped back which makes the guitar difficult to hold.

The short ceremony was shambolic but was ok. I played the 12 string through the group's PA system thus allowing its volume to match Orna's singing. No one said a word to me afterwards about the guitar....

The musical group were good but not ambitious.The small crowd which turned out for the evening (apparently many families were on holiday outside of the kibbutz) sang along with almost all of the songs. The guitar sounded very good although at times its sound had a bit too much treble. Look, ma; he's playing my guitar!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Vinyl log #31 - 23 September

23September197410ccSheet music

More symbolism: if vinyl log #30 was about the last records that I bought as a Londoner, this log is about the first record that I bought as a Londoner. 

In the second half of September 1974, I moved from Cardiff to London, and probably during the first week of my move, I bought this record at the 'Our Price' shop opposite Finchley Road tube station. This was to be my 'local' record shop for a few years until a branch was opened in Golders Green.

I had heard 'Silly love' and 'Wall Street shuffle' on the radio in during August and had loved them, so it wasn't much of a leap into the unknown to buy this record which contained those two songs. 

I loved this record from the start, being amazed at the flights of fantasy which used to occur in the middle of each song. There structures weren't verse/chorus/verse/chorus or verse/verse/bridge/verse - they would start off following a standard structure then suddenly veer off into uncharted territory. I found the writing credits very interesting: several were by Godley/Creme, a few by Gouldman/Stewart, but there were also songs written by all the possible combinations. 

A little of this wildness crept into some of my songs written in the same period; unfortunately only a little.

I have a memory - this must have been at the end of September or early October - where there was a group of us sitting in one of the smaller bedrooms of our communal house, playing some kind of board game. The record was playing in the background; a girl called Jeanette flashed her eyes during 'Hotel' but then dismissed the record. I haven't seen her since then, but I hear the record frequently and still derive intense enjoyment from it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A framework for the successful implementation of enhancements

Almost a year ago, I suggested a framework for the successful implementation of enhancements in ERP systems. This was discarded from the research proposal which I submitted at the end of 2017, but has now made its triumphant return into my intermediate submission, which is basically my doctoral thesis without the actual 'in the field' research.

I was discussing the framework with the OP a few weeks ago when the thorny subject of validation arose. Had I continued working on my original thesis topic, validation would have been subsumed into showing that there was support (or lack of) for my hypotheses. But the current thesis topic is not hypothesis based, instead suggesting a framework. In this context, validity of the framework means that developing enhancements by means of the framework will lead to successful implementations, whereas enhancements not developed by means of the framework are liable to fail.

I've been looking for supporting literature but not finding anything - although I'm sure that there must be. One good paper is called "The conundrum of verification and validation of social science-based models"; after having read this, I was able to write "Whereas 'validation' in systems engineering means that a system has been accurately built according to its specifications, in the social sciences it generally means that measurements are measuring what they are supposed to be measuring (Hahn, 2013). In the exact sciences, validation means that a theory accurately predicts values which have yet to be determined experimentally".

After spending several hours looking for papers yesterday, I found it difficult to sleep, leading me to awake in the middle of the night and sit naked in the lounge, typing notes into the computer. I am considering using the following sentence as the thesis epigram: Inquissima haec bellorum condicio est: prospera omnes sibi indicant, aduersa uni imputantur, which, when translated into English approximates to "This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone". This is the antecedent to the more well-known phrase, "Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan". In the light of day, this seems less appropriate.

The subject of failure was very much on my mind yesterday; by placing more weight on investigating planned enhancements which failed, it becomes clearer what needs to be done in order to succeed. I wrote a new section in my thesis called 'Validating the framework', in which I analysed a failed enhancement in my company according to the framework, pointing out which stages were missed. I alluded to this enhancement in my second post from a year ago of the framework.

[SO: 4837; 5, 28, 44
MPP: 1263; 1, 6, 7]

Friday, September 21, 2018

Vinyl log #30 - 21 September

21September1978Sandy DennyThe original
21September1978Peter HammillThe future now

There's a great deal of symbolism going on here: one record collects together the earliest recordings made by an artist who had recently died, whereas the other looks towards the future by an artist who is still with us in 2018.

These are the last records which I purchased in Britain, during the final weekend which I spent in London. I have a vague recollection of buying these in a record shop 'in town', although I don't remember why I was there. I probably had a few hours to kill before attending the party for the new emigrants.

I had attended several of these parties previously, the first being in 1972, but this was my last, and obviously I was one of those being honoured instead of doing the honouring. I have basically no recollection of the party itself, although I sense that the 'show' wasn't very good and didn't match the level of the previous extravanganzae in which I had participated.

I managed to slip these two records into one of my boxes before it was loaded into our container. As there was no record player available, I didn't get a chance to listen to these records until several months later when our container finally arrived and I could extract my record player. Between the two records, there is only one song worth remembering - Peter's "If I could".

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Vinyl log #29 - 18 September

17September1977City BoyYoung men gone west

I spent several hours yesterday looking for the vinyl log blog which mentions the first time that I heard Martin Allcock, and in doing so, I remembered that there were a few months not covered in the series. So I have decided to resurrect the idea and write about records which I bought in the last four months of the year.
I ended vinyl log #16 from 24 June with the words "[I] would buy the next [record of City Boy] on the day of its release". It was a fine September Saturday morning when I walked down to Our Price records in Golders Green and bought the third City Boy record on the day of its release. I listened to it as much as I could that day, but my attention was tied up with something different - rehearsals for the Belstaff Bouncers record. Apparently we also went in the morning to the West End in order to buy a bass guitar.

I found this record much more enjoyable than its predecessor, being more musical and less influenced by guitar rock. I tried to bring its influence into our recording, although how exactly that worked eludes me now. Maybe I was looking for something more fluid, but I can't hear that at all.

There would be more City Boy records in the future.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Maartin Allcock, 1957-2018

I caught a whisper on the Internet last night which was confirmed this morning: Martin Allcock (aka Maaart - that's what a Manchester accent will do for you) had died. His website - which has yet to be updated at the time of writing - says the following:

Hello everyone. People were saying after my appearances at Cropredy last year that I was unwell. I was not. I'd lost weight because I had discovered the joy of exercise and was working out regularly. I was actually very fit and any illness was far beyond the horizon.

This year was meant to be my travel gap year. I was going to revisit friends and favourite places around the world before slowing down to enjoy the evening of my years. I made it as far as Madeira in January for some heat, a place I'd never considered before, but I loved it. Such a beautiful fragrant isle, truly a paradise. A week after my return, I developed jaundice, and had to go to hospital. Scans and tests revealed that there were more sinister things happening inside me. Now the race is run and the final chapter has begun, and my liver cancer is terminal. I am in absolutely no pain or discomfort at this time. For the time being, to look at, you wouldn't think there was much wrong with me. I am fully mobile, with energy, eating and sleeping well, and totally at peace with what the future holds. How long that future lasts is anyone's guess, but I probably won't make it to next summer. I shall play my final live performance at the Fairport Cropredy Convention this August, but I shall continue to make music while I draw breath. My main priority now is to finish the autobiography I began in January, and which now has an additional final chapter. I had no idea the deadline was so strict then. I will go with dignity, good humour and good grace. I just have to wait now for transport back to my own planet. I only came for the curry anyway.

So, do not be sad. I achieved everything I ever wanted to do from daydreaming in a council house in north Manchester to travelling the world with my heroes, playing to thousands and thousands of people, and getting paid for it. I have lived a lot, laughed a lot and loved a lot, and I shall leave this planet with eternal love and gratitude for my wife Jan, my three children Madeleine, Jered and Jane, and their mum Gill, and all of you who took any interest in this mad northerner. Thank you all so much. Be happy and shower the people you love with love. 

Still here for now ... 
Harlech, Cymru, June 2018

As I have written elsewhere,  I became aware of Maart when I bought the "Expletive Delighted" lp in the summer of 1988. He was the multi-instrumentalist in the revived Fairport Convention, and in my humble opinion he brought a great deal of musical intelligence to the band. He didn't write songs but did contribute labyrinthine instrumentals which seemed to change time signature almost every bar. Maart might not have added depth to the band's sound but he definitely added width as a proper lead guitarist and as a keyboard player. He introduced MIDI to Fairport.

He was the original promoted fanboy, having learned much music from Fairport in the 70s, then joining them in the 80s and leaving in the 90s. It was whispered at the time that he had become unreliable, giving in to the demon drink.

I bumped into Maart at the 1996 Cropredy festival; along with my recently met friend Chris, we had just entered the main field when we came across him. After greeting, I asked how old Maart was: he told me that he had been born in January 1957; I was quite pleased at this and crowed that finally I was older than someone in the band (I'm also older than his replacement, Chris Leslie). I was very disappointed when I learned the following year that he had left, as Chris - however nice he may be - lacked the Allcock touch.

Maart appears in the picture above with Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens (which is also a nom de guerre). It's amazing how similar he looks to me in that picture, although he smiles much more than I do. 

Go gently into the long night, Maart. You were appreciated.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Year holiday

Due to the timing of the Jewish New Year, we had a five day holiday this year (Friday through to Tuesday). I spent a few hours every day working on my doctoral submission, which to me was the most important use of my time. In perfect synchronicity, I received a notification this morning that an academic paper had been uploaded which matched my interests. In the flash of an eye, I downloaded it, read it and managed to incorporate a paragraph about this paper in my submission. I sent the submission to my supervisor today. I know that it's still not ready for submission to the research committee but it's definitely getting there.

Another activity on which I spent time was swimming. Equipped with my new mp3 player and increased stamina, I knocked off 32 lengths of Saturday. I thought that I would go swimming each day for a slightly shorter distance; 20 lengths on Sunday left me too tired to swim on Monday, but today I swam 24. I only woke up at 8:15 (very unusual for me) and the pool opened at 9am.

I also devoted a fair amount of time to that particularly Jewish trait, cooking for festivals. I cooked meat balls on Friday, salmon on Saturday, had Sunday off, and cooked chicken drumsticks last night. The fridge is full of left-over food.

Yesterday morning, I recorded vocals for my new song, "Say what you will". I should have spent more time singing the song, as the takes which I kept were very bassy, and there were also phrasing issues. I solved the phrasing issues by "getting out the razor blade" and editing the take which I had designated as the keeper; until the final mix I was still removing fractions of seconds of silence in order to align the words correctly. Mixing the song was problematic: I had great difficulty in getting a good tone for the vocals and then getting the vocals to be at the correct volume. I 'mastered' the song maybe twenty times, each time making small changes in the vocal volume in order to get the result which I wanted. I've left the song for the time being, but will probably return to it on Friday with fresh ears. 

But funnily enough, most of my spare time went to cricket: the five day holiday coincided with the five days of the last test match this summer, between England and India. I have, in fact, been following all the games this year, although I have no way of actually watching them; the Guardian had an over by over website which tells what happens for those unable to watch. Almost all of the matches have been intriguing, but some have finished in four days.

This test might easily be called a fairy tale match, for several reasons. Firstly, it was the last test match of Alastair Cook (pictured right), England's opening batsman; he announced before the game that he was laying down his bat after 12 years of test match cricket. He had a good first innings, but what made it a fairy tale was his second innings of 147 runs. Not unsurprisingly he has been named Man of the Match.

The second reason was England fast bowler James Anderson (pictured left above), who also broke a record by taking 564 Test wickets - more than any quick bowler in the history of Test cricket. Although he equalled the record early on in the second Indian innings, it seemed that he would not progress - until he took the final Indian wicket.

Aside from these records being broken, the game itself was fascinating. England made 332 in their first innings, due to Cook but also due to a ninth wicket stand of 98. India tried hard but their innings ended on 292, giving England a 40 run lead. The second English innings didn't start too well, but then Cook and captain Root combined for a 260 run third wicket stand! Then both Root and Cook went, almost in consecutive balls. I thought that England would declare at this stage, or at tea, which shortly followed, but they carried on for nearly another hour, amassing a total of 423 runs.

The timing of a declaration can be a tricky business: I thought that Root hadn't left enough time for England to bowl out India, but at first it seemed that Root had been vindicated, when India lost their first three wickets for only two runs! Their captain went first ball. But then a partnership formed which saw out yesterday evening and the morning session today. For a short period, it seemed that India might even amass the total needed to win, although a draw seemed a likelier option. But then the English bowlers struck again, and India finally succumbed for a total of 345; England won by 118 runs - with only 13 overs remaining.

What a game! It was fascinating reading about it, and it must have been unbelievably tense to have actually been there.

And after all that - back to work tomorrow, with a trip to Karmiel.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Ikigai - a reason for being

I saw the graphic which appears below in a financial blog which I receive, and I wondered where I stand with respect to this in terms of my occupations as ERP developer +, musician and cook.

I enjoy cooking and I think that I'm good at it, but I don't have much passion for it and it certainly is not my profession. The world does not need another cook! So that dimension to my life doesn't get very far. 

The same, unfortunately, can be said about my music: I love it, I think that I'm good at it and I have a passion for it. But the world does not need another musician and I'm certainly not being paid for it!

As a Priority developer/implementer/educator: I certainly enjoy my work (or at least, most aspects of it), I'm good at it, it's my profession, I get paid for it and the world definitely needs more Priority developers. I modestly think that I have achieved Ikigai for this activity. Is it a reason to get up in the morning (which is how Ikagai is considered in Okinawa, Japan)? It would be if I my job consisted of development and teaching; I don't enjoy some of the managerial aspects and I certainly don't appreciate the constant travelling of the past few months.

It's worthwhile following the link for Ikigai above as the web page to which it leads is very illuminating.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Delphi community edition

Sometimes there are weeks without blogging, sometimes once a day for several days.

By chance, I happened to see a reference to 'Delphi Community Edition': it seems that Embarcadero (the company that now owns Delphi) has decided to make the current version (10.2) free to freelance developers, startups, students and non-profits. I didn't notice this yesterday, but the license is limited to one year. What happens after that? This announcement was made on July 18, so I was lucky to find this early on. An eight week course on Delphi CE will be starting on Monday, so again, the timing was in my favour.

The big advantages for me of having this new version of Delphi are creating unicode programs in Hebrew and being able to program on my laptop. I imagine that I will get used to the new version by converting one of my 'exam programs' to Delphi 10. At some stage I will have to evaluate the database components: can I stay with Firebird or do I have to move to another database manager?

The most worrying aspect is that the license is for one year. What happens in September 2019? Will I be able to renew the license? If not, then there is no point in developing any programs now because I won't be able to maintain them in the future.

I confess that I had problems creating a user or logging back on to the Embarcadero site; it seems that at one stage my user name was being stored with a space at the end. It took me quite some time to discover this, but now things seemed to have improved. I have asked about the one year license.

I do have a specific task to program which will work well in this version of Delphi: writing a command line program which receives as input an Excel file (xlsx) and outputs a tab delimited text file. I need this for Priority: there is a program which does this and is distributed with version 18.2, but I can't get it to work. Having my own tool will help enormously.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The mp3 player for swimming takes its maiden plunge

The kibbutz swimming pool has an informal timetable for Saturdays: from 9am-10am (from 8:30am in July and August) the pool is set aside for serious swimmers; at 10am children start arriving with their parents; at 12pm (I imagine) the youngsters start arriving and stay until the pool is closed. I'm one of the early birds and normally get there before the lifeguard opens the pool. I also leave before the children come.

Today I showed off my mp3 player for swimming which I had set up yesterday. The few people there were very impressed: they all wanted the link to the player and they all wanted to know how well the player actually functioned. I'm pleased to say that the player passed its test with flying colours!

As opposed to normal earbud headphones, these have 'screw in' headphones which create a watertight seal and are in no danger of falling out. The sound was very good although there didn't seem to be much stereo separation, not that this matters in these surroundings. The people who I showed it to before swimming asked about whether the 'horns' would dig into the neck; the answer is that the player was barely noticeable, and anyway there's enough going on when I'm swimming to take one's attention from the very mild digging in of the player.

The very fact that I swam 30 lengths this week (last week was 22 and I stopped out of boredom) speaks for itself! Some of the increase from last week can be attributed to improved stamina, but most of the increase came from the headphones - in other words, I was concentrating much less on the mechanics of swimming and had something to stop me from getting bored.

I've sent the link to the player to a few people who will distribute this around the kibbutz (fortunately I'm not a member of the exceedingly chatty women's WhatsApp group). I imagine that the vendors will be very surprised to receive several orders from different people at the same address. It occurred to me that I could buy ten players then sell them here, but a kibbutz member does not take advantage of his fellow members.