Saturday, March 28, 2020

Thesis update

The only good thing for me about being at home because of Corona is that I have plenty of time to work on my thesis. Over the past week, I've worked between 1-3 hours each day, including a very productive talk with my supervisor, which I recorded. Today I completed everything that I wanted/was required to add (except something to do with the literature review), and this morning two new ideas popped up for the conclusions section:
  • It would be very interesting to determine a time-line of enhancements, to try and see when each enhancement was deployed and what each enhancement does. The idea is to try and see when more essential enhancements are made as opposed to less essential. On the other hand, essential enhancements can appear at any time due to changing market conditions (this is one my major points in the introductory chapter). Doing so would of course require several longitudinal studies which is a bit beyond my capabilities at the moment.
  • Should enhancements be developed and deployed in areas which are not part of a company's core business? One can argue that it is essential to optimize the core business (normally production) and that it is a waste of resources to improve non-essential functionality. This researcher believes in empowering all employees, and the improvement of non-essential functionality can free time which can then be spent on more important matters.
Out of curiosity, I also noted down for the past eight versions how many words each version contains.
DateNumber of wordsWords added
06/11/201834,557
19/04/201933,891-666
18/08/201942,4428,551
09/09/201945,3602,918
08/02/202050,2824,924
29/02/202053,6723,388
09/03/202056,2382,566
28/03/202060,9174,679

The version from 06/11/18 was the intermediate submission which was accepted by the research committee. There are a few reasons why there was a five month gap before the next version, which strangely had a decrease in the number of words: one reason was that the thesis underwent an almost complete rewrite and one section was discarded. Since then, "the only way is up". Note also that there have been four versions in the past two months whereas previously there had been four versions in fifteen months (this is partially because I was performing the actual research in the first half of 2019 so I couldn't write about it). After splitting the introductory chapter into two, the section which was discarded earlier has returned to what is now the second chapter which is all about ERP.

My supervisor wants me to improve the literature review chapter, not by adding more subjects or papers but by adding links between the papers. I don't quite see how this can be done.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Days of Corona (2)

I wrote ten days ago that I underwent a surgical removal of a cyst on my neck. If ten days have passed then it's time to have the stitches removed. The surgeon told me (half in jest) that next time I should try and have the cyst in an easier place to get to. The same thing happened today: the nurse couldn't access the stitches which had intertwined with the scab, so she had to call the doctor (GP) who also had problems but eventually succeeded.

So it's another couple of days of antibiotic cream covered with a plaster.

The accompanying picture is just to give an idea of what it is like to visit the clinic these days. One has to call the nurse in advance in order to book an appointment; they call back to say when to come. Outside of the clinic I was outfitted with gloves and mask, which I removed after the treatment had been completed. The gloves go into a bin, then it's wash the hands with alcogel. Incidentally, someone sent me a warning film about alcogel this morning: one has to wait a minute or two after applying before being next to a flame (cooking on a gas stove, lighting a cigarette): people have applied alcogel, lit a flame and then gotten burnt. I don't smoke and I haven't used the stove all week.

Back at home, we've just had a visit from the grandchildren: my wife and I stood on the balcony and waved to our grandchildren who were on the path outside. We can't come any closer than that. I miss them.

Counting beats with van der Graaf (2)

Nearly 11 years ago I wrote a blog entry about the used of varying time signatures appearing in the album 'Godbluff' by Van der Graaf Generator, noting that "I haven't figured out yet in which time signature the opening verse" of 'The Sleepwalkers'. Yesterday I heard the song once again and this time I made some progress in deciphering.

I wrote then that the final verse has the structure 4-2-4-4 (as also appears in "My room"), and this section has always given me the feeling of 'arriving home'. I now understand why I feel like this: the opening verse appears to have the following number of beats 6-3-6-6 (although this final 6 seems to be truncated); it's so fast that it's hard to count. The 'cha cha' section is definitely in 3/4. Looking at the first verse, if one takes the beats to be crotchet triplets, then the structure is 4-2-4-4! Very familiar.  In other words, the opening verse is the same as the closing verse but metrically is played as triplets as opposed to 'straight' crotchets. I wonder who is the clever dick who thought this up.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Days of Corona

The day after writing my previous blog was the day that I received feedback from my doctoral supervisor about the latest version of my thesis. I was quite proud of that version and so was somewhat surprised when I noticed the quantity and quality of remarks. I spent a few hours on Friday briefly going over the remarks then creating a new section on biases and fallacies by collecting material which was scattered around the thesis (the status quo bias, selection bias, confirmation bias, halo effect - I know them all). I shall have to add to this section some material about how the biases were mitigated. On Saturday I thought about writing a program which would store the various issues which my supervisor had found, along with the progress of my handling these issues. For some reason, I didn't turn these thoughts into a program.

Sunday found me sitting at the kitchen table with two computers, one of which is connected to work and the other to Microsoft Teams (for video conferencing). I had about four hours of concentrated work on Sunday after which I turned to 'standby mode'; I decided to use the time in order to write the supervision program. At first this started very badly: normally I take an existing program and adapt it to what I need, but this time there seemed to be so much that needed to be changed that it seemed easier to start from scratch. Throughout the day I worked on the program, getting it to the state that I could enter data then see what problems remained with the program. I thought it best to record all the supervisor's feedback before starting to change things.

This morning I carried on like the day before: a few hours of concentrated work (including a video meeting with six other people) then standby. In the down time, I continued entering the supervisor's comment into the program, and in doing so discovered a few things that needed improving. After I finished, I counted how many issues there are: 42! Of these, 18 are flagged, meaning that I need to talk to the supervisor about them. I'm sure there have never been so many issues, especially since I thought that the previous version was good. Some of these issues are solved easily - move one section from where it is currently to a different chapter, change a section's title, etc - whereas some (all of the flagged issues) are more demanding. I added two paragraphs on ontology and constructivism: tomorrow I will continue with this.

Just after 4 pm, I downed tools and took the dog for a 4 km walk. This went a bit faster than yesterday's walk which means that I'm getting fit again. All this sitting around at home isn't good for one's health; I found myself on Sunday eating a biscuit or a slice of bread every time I made myself a cup of tea, which is once an hour. Today I resolved to do something about this and so I sliced a red pepper, like I used to do when I didn't work at home, and munched on the slices contentedly throughout the day. I'm pleased to say that I ate only one biscuit today and that was at 5 pm, after returning home from the long walk.

The next few days promise to be more of the same: devoting time to work (I'm still in full employment, being paid my regular wage and so my employers expect that I work as hard at home as I did when not at home) and spending my down time reading academic papers and writing about them. 

One spanner in the works is that I found a copy of the 2015 biography of John Le Carré (né David Cornwell) which I find extremely interesting, especially the parts of his childhood which appear in his novels. I knew that 'A perfect spy' had a great deal of autobiography, but there are plenty of other episodes in his life which crop up in his books. The school in 'Tinker Tailor' is very reminiscent of Cornwell's primary school; a description of Cornwell's father 'always waiting for someone [a jailor] to open doors for him' pops up in Charlie's description of her father in 'The little drummer girl', etc.

Morale is high, although I miss my grand-daughters. On Saturday we were sent a video of grand-daughter #2 taking her first walk (hurray!) but apparently she's lazy and hasn't repeated this feat. Her sister is bored and wants to go back to kindergarten. We're not allowed to see them as children are likely to infect their grandparents - this is a country wide injunction.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

1300 blogs and still counting

It's meta-blogging time: let's see what I've been writing about in the past 100 blogs. First of all, blog entry 1201 was written on 16/02/19 so the current rate is 100 / 13 months = 7.7 blogs/month. That's the same rate as 1101-1200, but slower than 1001-1100 and 901-1000. There aren't many surprises in the top few topics.

PositionTagCount
1DBA13
1=Priority tips13
3Holiday12
4Health10
5=Andros8
5=Personal8
7Athens6
7=Kibbutz6
7=Song writing6
10Mobile phone5

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Strange days

Strange days have found us 
Strange days have tracked us down 
They're going to destroy
 Our casual joys
 We shall go on playing
 Or find a new town
(The Doors)


After the apocalyptic events of Thursday night, things returned to normal (or, at least, what passes for 'normal' in these days of Corona). Every evening we listen to two or three hours of news which update us regarding the number of ill people in Israel and the latest instructions for containing the disease. I went into work as usual on Sunday and Monday - there aren't many people there and anyway, most of my time I spend almost in isolation in my 'office' which is like a cubicle. Schools were closed from Friday.

As opposed to the weekend, the weather was spring-like (or even summer-like), so as soon as I got home at 4:45 (no travelling this week!), I would change my shoes and shirt in order to take the dog for a long walk. It's rare to see people on my route, so I was continuing my isolation even though I was out of the house. The news in the evening showed crowded streets in Tel Aviv as well as crowded beaches: this captured our leaders' ire. As it appears that young, gregarious, people are the main spreaders of Covid-19 (or Corona, as it is known here), even though they aren't the ones becoming ill, having them in large concentrations is the complete opposite of the 'social distancing' which the Ministry of Health is trying to create.

On Monday I participated in a video conference: we now have software which enables peer to peer conferencing, as opposed to the 'client server' software which we had been using with special projectors. As a result, six or seven people connected up: most of the time there were only four active windows with two being hidden, although I think that everyone was visible at first. Another surreal event in increasingly surreal times. We were discussing (as we do every week) changes which are to be made to the factory in Karmiel; the biggest change is the installation of two huge 'nesting' machines which perform a variety of tasks connected with wood. These machines are being supplied by a company in Italy ... with whom all contact has been lost. It is clear that there will be a three month moratorium on these machines, if not longer.

On Monday evening, there was an announcement that manufacturing companies should have a maximum of 30% of their workers present at any site, so I decided to work from home on Tuesday. I had an appointment for a specialist doctor in the morning so I could save a journey. At about 8am, someone phoned to say that the CEO had called for a 10:30 am meeting; we assumed that this would be another video conferencing call so I said that I would come to the factory at 10 am, set up the computer and stay for part of the meeting, then go to my appointment. At about 9 am, the electricity went off in our building - the electricians and gardeners were cleaning up the mess left from the gales of Thursday night - so I went into work an hour earlier.

The 'meeting' was by phone, not video, so my preparations were worthless. The CEO was asking all the various department heads how we can organise ourselves in order to meet both the demands of public health and those of our customers - mainly organisations. One would imagine that most of our customers are in exactly the same position as we are and are cutting down their operations, so receiving office furniture is probably not high on their list of priorities. All 'computerised' personnel will work from home and the factories will work two shifts with the minimum number of people working each shift (30% of a given site's personnel can be on site at any given time, so 30% will work one shift, 30% will work another shift, those that can will work from home, and those that can't will be sent on unpaid leave). National Insurance has pledged to pay 70% of the salary (up to 10,000 NIS) of workers set on unpaid leave so they won't be too disadvantaged (I wonder what happens about contributions to pension funds and similar).

I had to leave in the middle of the meeting (I wasn't actually invited and it dealt with matters which don't directly concern me) in order to drive to the clinic in Bet Shemesh. I had called a few days before hand in order to verify that the appointment would take place - I wouldn't have been surprised had it been cancelled. There were a few receptionists in place, wearing masks, but no customers. The appointment had been set up in the first place because I noticed several months ago that I had a lump on my neck - I assumed that this was a subcutaneous sebaceous cyst. Whilst this has to be treated, it's not important (unless it gets infected) so I wasn't bothered about making an appointment in January to be seen in March. The masked doctor agreed with my diagnosis; I assumed that he would write up the examination then suggest that I make another appointment to have the cyst removed. But no, he took me to the next room, which is like a small operating theatre which is where I have had most of my previous BCCs and cysts removed. There was another doctor there who felt the lump and agreed as to its provenance. I went to make the appointment to have the cyst removed and was surprised to be handed a piece of paper which said that the appointment was for now. "Why wait when you're already here?" asked the receptionist. Well, Corona ....

Back I went to the operating room; after an unexplained wait (I could hear the doctor chatting to one of the nurses in Russian), I was called in and the procedure took place. I think that the doctor's shift didn't start until 12 am which is why I had to wait about ten minutes. During the time that I was on the table, the weather changed: from sunny it turned to rain, and since then it's been raining on and off, sometimes heavily and sometimes lightly. 28.7 mm fell by 8 am this morning, which is quite a fair amount. It also rained on and off on Saturday, and at one stage I found myself composing the beginning of a tune whose first line is "I like (love?) to listen to the rain" - I think this is going to be minimalistic as I couldn't develop the tune very much. At the moment it has a very big range - from G below middle C, a note which I can't reach in a dependable manner, to B above middle C, in other words an octave and a half. We'll see.....

Anyway, I now have a plaster on my neck, covering a slightly painful wound. I can take the large plaster off this evening and wash; not having a plaster will improve the flexibility of my skin and reduce the rigidity that I feel.

Today (Wednesday) I am of course working from home. I was busy for a few hours, but now things have settled down and I'm on standby.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Apocalypse now (continued)

Here are some more pictures from yesterday evening


This is the tree by the entrance to the kibbutz whose branches touched the electricity wires. This is what caused the first power cut.
This is a tree which fell down near the old school buildings and crushed a football net frame.
This is the tree that fell down next to our neighbours. The roots came out of the ground. Fortunately the tree lay across the path and didn't bring down the wooden balcony. This is what I saw when I came out of my house and looked right.
And this is what I saw when I came out of the house and looked left. 

At about 11pm, the winds, which had been blowing at 60-80 km/hour, relaxed somewhat, which is when the rain started falling. At first the rain was quite light, but it became heavier as time went by. I was surprised to read that only 11 mm fell; I got the impression that it was much more.

All of the fallen trees have been cut with power saws into smaller pieces, allowing them to be moved and so allow access through the paths. They'll be collected on Sunday.

All of the above shows how fragile our existence really is. We should be thankful that we have a roof over our heads and that a tree did not fall on that roof.

Another cause of the apocalypse is the political situation in Israel: three times we have gone to the polls in less than 12 months and no one has been able to form a government. There were calls last night for an emergency government to be formed, maybe one with a limited tenure of three to six months. Because the current government is transitory (the same government which was in place a year ago), they can't pass any emergency laws and they also can't make any personnel changes. An emergency government is sorely needed to pass certain legislation which would make life much easier. They can agree to disagree on foreign/defence policy, but at the moment everyone around the world is looking inwards.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Apocalypse now

I don't need to tell anyone about the steps being taken to prevent the spread of the Corona virus. The television news here has just informed us that schools are going to be closed for the next few weeks; congregations of more than 100 people have been banned. As a result, many business sectors are in trouble: airlines, hotels, restaurants, concerts, railways......

I haven't been feeling well all week: I had a slightly sore throat and a cough on Sunday which has gotten worse over the past few days. Yesterday I felt bad enough to come home at lunchtime: my head was woolly and I am coughing and sneezing frequently. I don't think that I have contracted the Corona virus as I haven't been anywhere that could have led me to catching it, but who knows. I went to our clinic this morning and was almost told off: the new rules are that the nurses will make home visits. I had a temperature of 37.7°C which is higher than what it should be but not too high to worry. After two rounds of paracetamol, the temperature has gone down, but I'm still coughing and/or sneezing. Maybe it's just as well that I'm staying at home.

At around 5 pm, the wind suddenly picked up. Predictions for weather for today and tomorrow are very strong winds and heavy rain; the rain hasn't come yet but the winds are so strong that trees are falling down all over the kibbutz. Just after 6 pm, the electricity went off ... really apocalypse now. Of course, our telephones had only about 30% charge, so it was time to bring out the candles. Our emergency light didn't work. The picture on the left was taken about 20 metres from our house: we're just out of the picture on the left hand side.

The electricity came back after about half an hour and the first thing that we did was to charge the phones as well as this computer on which I am typing. 

God knows what tomorrow will bring ....

Edit: the power went off again at about 19:45. It sounded like another tree  outside our house fell. Three people have just come in and are standing on our balcony, chopping down part of a tree. I'm typing this with one finger on my phone which miraculously has connected somehow to the internet. The people who came in are now in the garden, chopping down what is left of a eucalyptus tree. Someone sent us a video of a tree in the entrance to the kibbutz whose branches were touching a power line; the branch caught fire. Maybe I'll be able to make a photo of it.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Thesis dilemma

I wrote the following in the introduction section of my thesis:  At first glance, it might seem that ERP Enhancement Management (EEM) is merely a special case of Engineering Change Management (ECM); whilst there are similarities, there are also significant differences which are discussed in the literature review and synthesis chapters. The most significant difference is that ECM is concerned with product management, whereas EEM is concerned at root with people management. This statement implies that the topics of change management and user resistance are relevant to EEM: even the most successful enhancement on paper will fail if no user is prepared to use it. Furthermore, in the researcher's opinion, ECM is concerned with developing physical products which are used by people outside of the developing organisation, whereas EEM is concerned with software and business processes, both non-physical entities, which are used inside the developing organisation.

My supervisor wrote as a comment: Might be worthwhile looking up the definition of a product and a service and using this to support your view concerning the difference between an ECM and EEM.

I looked for a definition of a product and found this: A product is the item offered for sale. A product can be a service or an item. It can be physical or in virtual or cyber form. Every product is made at a cost and each is sold at a price.

According to this definition, an enhancement is a product as it is a service in virtual form; it is made at a cost (employee's time) and is sold at a price. Whilst in-company enhancements are not offered by for sale and are not sold at a price, an enhancement which I might develop for an external client certainly is sold at a price. I can't use this quote to 'support my view concerning the difference' because it seems that there is no difference! Even my emphasis about 'outside' and 'inside' does not cause a difference when one considers (again) the case of a consultant. One can't say that a product is mass produced and than an enhancement is bespoke - my automatic reaction to the word 'bespoke' is tailoring a suit (or a dress) specifically for a client.

Yet I am convinced that there is a difference. I think that I will have to pass this topic on to my right hemisphere in the hope that it will provide a solution to my dilemma.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Sorting out the hardware

Despite my unsuccessful morning ruining hardware the other day, everything has now more or less been sorted. My diagnosis of the computer that wouldn't boot was correct: the boot sequence had been reset. For some reason, I couldn't correct it, but my computer repairman did. I still have to configure the PCI music card which I installed: the driver and associated software came on one of those mini-discs and the CD drive in the computer can't read it (actually, the drive can't read anything, but that's another story). I'll get out my external CD drive and try and read the disk from there. In the mean time, I'm back to using my external sound card.

After wasting a fair amount of time with the television screen, I decided that we should buy a new one. Today's screens can connect to the internet via a wireless router - I'm listening to Japanese ambient sounds from YouTube playing from the television. Once I set the screen up, I discovered quickly that the new screen was displaying exactly the same error message as its predecessor did, which fairly annoyed me. My son in law was enlisted to help: he discovered that the error message was due to the satellite receiver not being able to read its card properly. He took the card out, cleaned it slightly, reset the receiver ... and now everything works as it should: the satellite on HDMI 1 and the DVD on HDMI 2. I haven't had any chance to watch anything on the DVD in the past few days but I'm sure it will be ok. I understand that I can use the screen as a display for my computer but I haven't looked for the technical explanation yet.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Sending a report via email in English (Priority)

I was asked to create a report which shows all the purchase order lines for which we have not yet received confirmation from the vendor. This is not much of a problem, but once my clients saw the report, they wanted to send a copy to each vendor, where of course each vendor sees only their orders.

Following on from my successful 'all in one HTML report', I suggested doing something similar: creating a letter with a few lines of explaining what the attached report was and then attaching the report, which is now in the form of an HTML document. Although this wasn't particularly straight-forward (the main problem was writing a query which would loop through all the vendors in order to find to whom the letter should be sent), it wasn't too difficult.

Then the problems began. "The HTML report should be in English", I was told. OK; I started researching how certain HTML documents in the system 'know' to print themselves in English. It took me several passes over such a document before I noticed that there was a flag in the procedure definition which had a different value to what I've always used; the 'HTML document' flag was marked E and not Y. Once I saw this, I was able to get the report to print itself in English.

Full of confidence, I then scheduled the report so that the letters would be sent to my client (as opposed to the vendors). He returned the letters to me saying that they should be in English. Huh, I wondered? How is it possible that that the document displays left to right when I create it manually but right to left when it is created programmatically?

I decided to read the (almost incomprehensible) documentation again (shown below) and discovered that I need to add a flag to the command which creates the document; this flag overrides the E flag within the procedure. RTFM. Even the 'E' flag in the procedure is documented. Now everything works correctly, although I'm sure that the client will find something else to be changed.


Monday, March 02, 2020

Election day

It's election day once again in Israel - the third time in a year - and we get a day off work. I've been saving up a few things to do on this day. Let's see how far I've got ....

About two months ago, I had problems with my development computer. The repairman said that there were many connections which were half-fried on the motherboard and he was surprised that the computer worked at all. This might explain some of the problems which I had been experiencing with my internet browser. He replaced the motherboard which works fine (as does the browser) but the onboard music card was terrible: it seemed to work only on one channel and even then barely. So I connected my external music 'card' to a USB port and I was back in business. When I complained to the repairman about the sound card, he gave me a real sound card, the likes of which I haven't seen for a long time.

One of today's tasks was to open up the computer and insert the sound card. This is not a problem, but after I connected everything up, the computer refused to boot, claiming that it couldn't find a boot device - even though it recognised the hard disks. Back to the repairman. Score so far: 0 out of 1.

Another thing which has been bothering me is that I couldn't get the DVD recorder to display via HDMI. I am convinced that the problem lies with the screen, but we're not about to replace it. One day I had an idea: if the screen can take one HDMI input, buy an HDMI switcher which allows several HDMI sources: as far as the screen is concerned, there is only one HDMI cable connected which should be ok. I ordered a switcher about two months ago: this arrived about a week ago and I've been waiting for today to connect it. I made all the connections, but the screen would only display what was connected to one input socket on the switcher. I moved everything around with no improvement. Now the screen won't even display the one HDMI source! Score so far: 0 out of 2 (actually, -1 out of 2 because I haven't succeeded in getting the screen to display anything now).


For the past year, one kibbutz member has set up a bakery: he bought equipment, found an unused store-room of the kitchens and started work. He bakes lovely bread and sells once a week on Friday mornings. Almost every week I buy a loaf made with 50% spelt flour (let's hope that the other half is wholewheat flour), honey and walnuts. Every time I go to collect my loaf, I see that they struggle with what appears to be a spreadsheet in which they keep details of who has ordered what and how much to charge. Last Friday the penny dropped: why should they struggle with such a 'program' when I can write something which will make their life much easier. For fun, I started work on Friday evening, writing a program in which every screen is non-modal (this should be an interesting experiment), continued on Saturday and finished yesterday evening with a few reports. 

I intend to show him the program which means that I have to copy it onto a mobile computer and also ensure that the Firebird database manager is running on the same computer and can show the program in Hebrew. My first step was to try and install my old version of Firebird (1.5) on my mobile - Windows refused to accept it. I then tried on my work computer with the same results. I have another version of Firebird which should work, but I was afraid that this version wouldn't be compatible with my program. I installed Firebird 2.1 on my work computer, copied the files which I had backed up last night ... and the program worked directly out of the box! I went through the same procedure on my mobile; the program works but the Hebrew doesn't display correctly in all places and the program displays left to right. Obviously there are some locale kinks to sort out. Now I can report a score of 1 out of 3.

I've voted, and I'm going to devote the rest of the day to programming in Priority for one of my clients. At least this will go ok. It only goes to show that I am a software person and not a hardware one.