The HELP 2004 Exhibition

Today I visited the HELP 2004 Exhibition in the Exhibition Grounds at northern part of Tel Aviv.
This is an exhibition of equipment, accessories, means and methods for the population of people with disabilities in Israel.

It was a small exhibition, occupying only one building in the Exhibition Grounds.
This exhibition started yesterday and will end tomorrow.

Overwhelmingly majority of the booths exhibited equipment which helps wheel chair bound people. Elevators, equipment which allows them to drive cars or to use cars at all, new kinds of wheelchairs, walkers, etc. The needs of the hard-of-hearing were represented mostly by booths of audiological clinics and hearing aid dispensers. I don’t recall seeing booths with equipment which serves the needs of blind or hard sighted people.

The hall was indeed full with people on wheelchairs. There was also respectable representation of people with hearing impairments, even though today was not Hearing Day (which was held yesterday, in parallel to the exhibition). Usually when I go to exhibitions or such places, I meet zero or one people whom I know from other place. This time, I met no less than two people whom I know from other places, not to mention people who manned (or rather, womanned) the booth of Bekol.

My personal goal was to find people, who develop new kinds of assistive equipment, and need help with the software part of their inventions. I located no such people, but I got hold of up-to-date contact information for M.I.L.B.A.T., the Israeli center for technology and accessibility. This center employs the services of volunteer professionals, who design custom adaptations for the needs of people with disabilities. I was in contact with the center several years ago, but somehow lost contact with them.

Selling your software – a brief review of two articles by Eric Sink

Closing the Gap, part 1 talks about the function of proactive sales in a small ISV.
Closing the Gap, Part 2 describes an alternative to hiring a sales guy.

Both parts elaborate on closing the gap between your product and a prospective customer.
Part 2 also has links to further reading about the subject.
Those parts and several other articles by Eric Sink are worth the time spent reading them.

Another point of view on current economic situtaion in developed countries

Let’s assume that thanks to advances in technology, it is sufficient to support the basic needs – food, clothes, shelter, medicine – of a 1,000,000 people population by the efforts of 10,000 people working normal work weeks.

This leaves 990,000 people unemployed. Applying the current economic model of requiring people to work in order to get goods and services would mean that 990,000 people would die of famine or illness even though there are resources to keep them alive and well. There are possible good and bad solutions to the problem, and several of them were used, to varying degrees, and for better or worse, in the world’s economies:

  1. The 10,000 people are made slaves of the entire population. They are forced to work and support the other people. For example, by means of high income tax and high sales tax (or VAT) – accompanied by generous welfare handouts to people without jobs.
  2. Make work. People without jobs persuade some of the 10,000 job holding people to part with some of their money, to buy doodads and fake services. This can be carried out by means of religious brainwashing, advertisements, and educating children to consume.
  3. People who have a job – work. People who don’t have a job go to school and study yet another occupation. Some of the studies are from books and other people. Other studies are performed on nature itself and known as ‘research’. Someday they may have a job which utilizes what they learned. But even if not, they get paid for the time they study. Today’s universities are an example of this.
  4. Special kind of make-work: deploy smaller manufacturing plants, which need more labor per unit of produce, but can be operated by more people. An example: small high-labor organic farms operating next to big farms, which save labor by using all kinds of agricultural machines. People who find a job work for a large concern. People who don’t find a job – operate their own farm and sell its produce. The disadvantage is that the extra labor leaves them with less time for studies.

I believe that the best system is the one in which people either have jobs or study or mixture of both. However, I don’t see yet a good solution how to construct an economic system, which transfers value from the 10,000 workers (in the above example) to those of 990,000 who study and who exercise wisdom in their choice of subjects to study.

What happens if we cross physics with Scheme?

The data structures in Scheme (and for that matter, also in Lisp) can be used to model different realities. Functional programming corresponds to closed systems, which evolute in time without interaction with their surroundings beyond initial conditions and harvesting of computation results. Imperative programming corresponds to open systems, which interact with their surroundings and their state contains a record of such interactions which occurred in the past.

So I am wondering whether additional models of reality can be investigated by means of Scheme. Such as open systems, which hold memory of both past and future events.

In my Google search, I found only the following:
SCMUTILS Reference Manual, which is referred to by Christopher Browne’s Web Pages. However SCMUTILS is not what I am looking for.

Source of inspiration: chapter 3 of the SICP 2nd edition.

A cultural trip in Neve-Zedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv

Neve-Zedek neighborhood was the first neighborhood out of Jaffa in the area which later became Tel Aviv.
It has been neglected for several years, but at recent years, its homes are getting preserved and renovated. The area is becoming an artists’ area.

Today I was in a guided tour organized by Bekol, an organization of hard-of-hearing and deafened people. The tour was made accessible to people with hearing impairments thanks to a FM system which allows the hearing aid using participants to hear the guide’s story even against background noise. There was also a Sign Language interpreter for people (like me) who don’t benefit from hearing aids.

We met outside Nachum Gutman’s museum (some of the Web site’s features do not seem to be available in Mozilla 1.4 without the appropriate plugins) in 21 Shimon Roceach St. The next half hour was spent looking at his pictures and marvelling at the times during which it was true that “Tel Aviv is a small city and people in it are few” (the title of one of Gutman’s books for children).

The next stop was in Chelouche House. It was the first house built outside of Jaffa, by the Chelouche family, which was a very well-to-do family. This building was neglected for several years, and only very recently it was renovated and turned into a combination of museum and concerts hall.

On the top floor of the Chelouche House, there was an exhibition of photos taken of the Neve-Zedek neighborhood by a photographer, who lived in the area. Our guide told us that she tried to make an appointment with the photographer to meet us and talk with us about his photos, but she was not successful in getting his phone number from the “144” phone company service.
Why? The attendant didn’t understand what the guide wanted from her.
Why? The photographer’s name is Honi Hamagel (Honi the Circler). This is the same name as someone from Talmudic days, who had fate similar to that of Rip van Winkle.

We also had a brief look at the outside of Dallal Center. The tour ended for me personally with an ice cream serving from “Gelidat Savta” (Grandmother’s Ice cream) in Yehieli St., near to Chelouche House. I ordered ice cream there the way I usually order food in an unfamiliar gourmet restaurant – by asking the attendant which tastes she recommends. I don’t understand how she rightly guessed that I am a chocolate/coffee based ice cream type rather than fruit based ice cream type. Or is their chocolate based ice cream better than fruit based one?

PyGTK Hell

I am prototyping a keyword search based application.

For easy programming, I use Python.
For easy GUI design, I chose glade.
So I have to use PyGTK.
The application is not demanding in terms of innovative technology or software versions, so I use a PC with RedHat 8.0.

However, I ran into a snag:
I wanted to use the gtk.TreeRowReference binding to refer to rows of a listbox, which I want to delete.
However, it turns out that the Python bindings of GTK didn’t cover 100% of the GTK’s API. One of the missing APIs is… gtk.TreeRowReference, which was added only to PyGTK 2.4.
The PyGTK version which came with RedHat 8.0 is 1.99.12.

I worked around the problem by using paths. Since paths (unlike references) become invalid if rows are inserted/deleted into the listbox before the row referred to, I had to delete the rows in reverse order – from the end to the beginning.

I promise to myself that next time I install Linux from fresh, I’ll use Debian. Then I’ll be able to solve the problem by upgrading packages until I get PyGTK 2.4 and the appropriate versions of packages upon which it depends.

Buckminister Fuller, Geometric Algebra and Geometric Calculus

I found his Synergetics book (which appears to be as difficult to read as books about solid state physics or differential geometry) at http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/synergetics/synergetics.html

The home page of R.W. Gray, another fan of Buckminister Fuller, and maintainer of the above, is at http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/
He is interested also in Geometric Algebra. According to his choice of adjectives, it is not silver bullet to Science’s Problems and Woes only because there is no such a thing as a silver bullet (at least one with the relevant magical properties).

He links to someone else’s Web page about Geometric Calculus.

Another book on software development methodology

Joel on Software recommends Mike Gunderloy’s book Coder to Developer.
There are additional rave reviews.

I am still in middle of Richard Dawkins’ A Devil’s Chaplain (about evolution theory, religion, etc.).

How do other people cope with 20 excellent books waiting to be read, especially if they have family obligations?

But what kind of bacteria are they?

There is a recent article in Slashdot about the bacteria in shower curtains (http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/03/2014244&mode=thread&tid=134).

It reminds me of past stories about the horrible germs in phone headsets, computer keyboards and even in the kitchen. Those stories end with the conclusion that one should pay money to companies specializing in cleaning this stuff and/or buy new goods to replace the infected(?) stuff.

I wish those stories were accompanied by the percentage of bacteria which they share with human intestines, those bacteria which are really problematic.

Yet another instance of misguided make-work economics?

Websites for lifetime students

If you have free time to learn something new for the sake of learning rather than for grades, diploma, degree or qualification:

Red Rock Eater News Service – http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/pagre/rre.html
This is mostly about social and political aspects of computing and networking.

Troubleshooters.com(R) – http://www.troubleshooters.com/troubleshooters.htm
If you, like everyone, need to troubleshoot something such as a malfunctioning car or a mysterious software bug, read what this Web site has to say about being more productive troubleshooter.

Perfecting the art of building embedded systems – http://www.ganssle.com/
For those fortunate to have a career developing software for embedded systems.
Several articles have relevance also for people, who do not do embedded development.