We are off on our geriatric OE

The six hour stop-over in LA confirmed all my prejudices about America. Luckily we could kill a lot of time in the customs queues (they forced us to get a visa). After about an hour in the queue an official called all virgins to join the American visa entry queue. When there where no more virgin airline travelers me and Jenny were allowed to join the virgin queue.

Seeing that we entered America, we wandered LA streets for hours and saw parking garages, hotels, HUGE SUV’s (no cars) and a few prozzies. The US customs decided to open and inspect our bike boxes. I deduce they fought their way through my multi-layered packing and gluing systems on the first bike and decided just to cut the second box open.

On arrival to Munich we got our baggage and went through customs in 15 minutes flat. Took two hours to re-assemble the bikes.

I now know why some youth hostels do not allow older people. I am an Occupational Health and Safety risk when i get in and out of the top bunk (especially with my wonky shoulder).
Munich is wonderful. Bicycle heaven. No more on that as I feel a rant coming.
Met a black South African. We hugged and cried a bit.

Jenny has taken charge of the packing as my packing system is too sophisticated. I am in charge of navigation otherwise we will get separated.

The nature of paradoxes (how to spot a paradox)

logic paradoxes

A paradox is a proposition that seems contradictory.  The following statement is a short version of the lier’s paradox:
This statement is false

If the statement is the truth (True), then the sentence will have us accept that the statement is False. If the sentence is False, it follows that the statement is True.  And so we go round and round in a logic circle.

Paradoxes come in many forms. Bertrand Russel created a paradox in set theory (Mathematics). The paradox utilizes the concept of “sets that do not contain themselves”. I will try to explain what such sets look like:

  • A set of books in a household does not contain itself, as a set of books is not a book. A set (or collection) of stamps does not contain itself as the stamp collection is not a stamp in itself.
  • The set of all “ideas” could be said to contain itself, as “a collection of all ideas” could be thought to be an idea in itself.

So “sets not containing themselves” are normal everyday sets.  The paradox is constructed by defining a set, namely the set of all “sets not containing themselves”.

Does the set of all “sets not containing themselves” contain itself? Lets examine that:

  • If the set of all “sets not containing themselves” is in its own set, then it “contains itself”, and so by the definition it cannot be in the set, which is a contradiction.
  • If the set of all “sets not containing themselves” is NOT in its own set, then it “does not contain itself”, and then by definition it has to be in the set, which is a contradiction.

Hence the paradox.

So how are paradoxes constructed?

Truths are either derived, or assumed (a truth is either an axiom, or it is proved).   If you assume and prove something at the same time, you invite the possibility of inconsistency.  Paradoxes contain (a set of) rules or statements that refer to themselves , or stated differently, paradoxes are self-referential. The Liers’ paradox and also the (set/mathematical) definition uses itself whilst defining it’s own characteristic. The above paradoxes use negation to discredit the self-reference (I am not myself).

The moral of the story is to be careful with recursive logic (For example, do not get a person to vouch for him/herself).

On an aside, Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is proven using similar self-reference as the Lier’s paradox!

Laughter – stimulation of your unused nerves

Most humour occurs when (two) un-expected contexts are brought together. A context or story is told in the joke and a second context is introduced in the punch-line.
Then we laugh.

So what happens in our brains when we laugh? Perhaps the synapses firing in different areas of the brain are cross-linking in regions of the brain that are not normally active. Or stated differently, synapses that are seldom active are used.
Then we laugh.

We also laugh when we are tickled. Could tickling involve the stimulation of nerve-ends that seldom get sensory input?

The secret Van der merwe bread recipe

Here is the 1kg bread that I often make.
It is rich and moist, and is made with no sugar or yeast preservatives like you would expect of a proper bread.
I estimated amounts, as i normally measure ingredients by eye.
First soak:

  • 1 cup kibbled soy or soy grits
  • 1/4 cup oil (olive or canola)
  • 1 table spoon crushed garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds (or sonneblom seed)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 spoon salt
  • 2 cups water

Soak above ingredients in your bread mixer for about 2 hours or more.

Then add:

  • 3.5 cups (white) wheat flour
  • three tea spoons crushed fresh yeast, depending on whether you want the bread fluffy or solid (If the fresh yeast is very moist, kneed it into a bit of the flour)

Put on cycle for normal or french bread. You want the bread dough moist but not wet, otherwise the bread will rise too fast and collapse. For the first number of times you do this recipe, check on your bread maker after it has been mixing for 10 minutes or so – if it is too wet (sticky to a spoon or hand), add a bit of flour.

Ajax python “hello server” example

Ajax provides direct messaging between a browser page and the server from where the browser page originated. For example, only a part of a web page may be loaded using Ajax (like google maps).

There are examples of Ajax on the web, but i have not found one of them that used mod_python as a back-end. I thought I would provide a simple “Hello world” example as reference:

I assume you have apache2 and mod_python working. I have Python Version 2.5.2 and Apache2 version 2.2.8 on Ubuntu.

File “test_ajax_helloserver.html” : contains the ajax javascript code that your browser will execute.
File “hello_server.py” : contains the ajax response that mod_python will execute on the server

Copy and paste the text below into your favourite text editor.
Save the two files in the same directory/folder under your Apache mount point.
Load “test_ajax_helloserver.html” through your Apache webserver, and test it by clicking the button.


<html><head><title>AJAX Hello Server mod_python (hello_server.py) Test</title>
<script type="text/javascript">
var req;
function sendServerRequest(){
   req = newXMLHttpRequest(); // register the callback function
   req.onreadystatechange = updateMsgOnBrowser
   //specify url correctly in open(requestMethod,url,isAsync,username,password)
   req.open("POST", "hello_server.py", true); //or "POST"
   req.setRequestHeader("Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded");
   //get the text input element (payload) and send it to server
   var msg_value = (document.getElementById("testmsg")).value;
   req.send("form_send="+msg_value);  //send(payload) send(null)=no parameters
// This is the callback function that called from the server with the XML data
function updateMsgOnBrowser() {
  if (req.readyState == 4) {
     if (req.status == 200) {
        if(req.responseXML == null){
           var msg_display = document.getElementById("display_result");
           msg_display.innerHTML="XML response error<p><b>Content-type:</b>"+
               req.getResponseHeader("Content-type")+"<p><b>Response:</b> "+req.responseText;
        } else {
	   if (!testXML.documentElement && req.responseStream) { // Microsoft hack
	      testXML.load(req.responseStream); // another reason to drop IE
           var stime=(testXML.getElementsByTagName("server")[0]).getAttribute("time");
           var ctype=(testXML.getElementsByTagName("ctype")[0]).firstChild.nodeValue;
           var msgval=" - )" ;
           if (testXML.getElementsByTagName("message")[0].firstChild!=null){
           var version=(testXML.getElementsByTagName("version")[0]).firstChild.nodeValue;
           var msg_display=document.getElementById("display_result");
           msg_display.innerHTML="<p><b>Server received:</b>"+msgval+
             "<p><b>Python Version:</b> "+version+"<p><b>Server Time:</b>"+stime+
             "<p><b>Content-type  server:</b>"+ctype+
             "<p><b>Content-type browser:</b>"+req.getResponseHeader("Content-type");
     } else {
       var msg_display = document.getElementById("display_result");
       msg_display.innerHTML = "ERROR: "+ req.status +" "+ req.statusText;
//helper function to get a XMLHTTPRequest
function newXMLHttpRequest() {
   try { return new XMLHttpRequest(); } catch(e) {}
   try { return new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP"); } catch (e) {}
   try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP");    } catch (e) {}
   alert("XMLHttpRequest not supported");
   return null;
<body><h1>Simple javascript ajax to server test</h1>
<input id="testmsg" type="text" value="Hello Ajax server">
<button onclick="sendServerRequest()">Send ajax request to Server</button>
<div id="display_result" style="{background:honeydew;}">
Response from "hello_server.py" on the server will go here </div>
<div id="error_msg"></div>


import  sys,time
def index(req):
    req.content_type="Content-Type: application/xml"
    submit = req.form.getfirst("form_send", "no form parameter")
    s= "<?xml version=\"1.0\"?>  <server time=\"%s\">\
        <ctype>%s </ctype> <message>%s </message> <version>%s </version>\
       </server>" % (time.ctime(),req.content_type,submit,sys.version)
    return s

You would need a different javascript pattern/design if you plan to a have web-page that simultaneously sends multiple Ajax request.

If you get the error “405 Method Not Allowed”, the python module is not processing the “POST request. This may be due to the security configuration of the Web server. You could try changing your “POST” to a “GET” in the javascript. If you get a XML response error it may be because mod_python is not running properly.

The housing of domestic bees

Bees are industrious, organised and intelligent. Instead of explaining this in an article, I submit the following photo to the reader. See how those bees are watching me whilst I was checking out their health by opening their hive.

Like other Fauna and Flora, bees have been domesticated. The environment of domestic bees were changed by the introduction of artificial hives. Most honey bees are managed in in boxes where they store their honey in rectangular combs that are easily harvested. Feral colonies (bee colonies their native habitat) are not the norm. Whilst a lot of feral bees have been decimated by pests like the  Varroa mite, feral colonies have proven to be more resistant to pests than domesticated bees.

Man-made beehives normally adopt the Langstroth design. Bees store their honey and babies in frames. About nine of these frames are placed in boxes. A number of these boxes are stacked on a “bottom board”.

hive structure

Bees normally land on the bottom board and walk into the hive entrance at the bottom.

At the end of spring, bee keepers empty about half the honey out of each hive. Some commercial bee-keepers can be mercenary about the amount of honey they harvest. To ensure that bees make it through winter, bee-keepers feed the bees sugar water or an equivalent. This is like raiding the fruit and veggies and replacing it McDonalds food.

Varroa mites are like big ticks. If you were the size of a bee, a Varroa mite l;arger than a rat would be sucking your blood. A bee with more than one Varroa mite does not last long. Most bee-keepers use insecticides to control the amount of Varroa.

Bees will clean out their hives by removing dead bees, waste, the odd Varroa mite and other debris from the combs. As bottom boards are flat, the debris normally accumulate there. The beehive entry point therefore become the accumulation point of the hive debris.

bee movement pattern

Live mites often end up on the bottom board with the debris, where they can re-attach themselves to bees that walk in and out of the hive.

Some bee colonies spend more effort on hive hygiene by cleaning out their hives. It is well known that bees that are hygienic are more resistant to Varroa mite and pests.

Many scientist say there is no single cause to “colony collapse disorder”. “Colony collapse disorder” seems to be related to infections and Varroa.

The hive can be seen as an ecosystem that include bees and bee pests. The introduction of the artificial hive has changed this ecosystem, allowing pests to evolve their behavior to gain a competitive advantage.
Unhygienic hives are a breeding ground for many illnesses and may be the cause of colony collapse disorder (just like damp, drafty houses cause many illnesses in humans)

One method to improve the hygiene design of bee boxes, is to install a bottom board that allow debris (including live Varroa mites) to fall through onto the ground.

I have made such a bottom board,- as shown in the picture.

better bottom boards

The Purpose of Life

I have told this story (truth) to friends, and I thought it was time to write it down. I still believe in this purpose after all these years.

So, what is the purpose of life? The best way to explain this, is by taking you on a quick route tour of the path I took. I suspect the answer may apply to you as well.

I agonized about this in my youth poring over books, trying to understand philosophers like Jung and Satre.   I didn’t find any answer that I could believe in, so I concluded it was up to me to figure out for myself.

The purpose of Life was too hard to derive analytically, so I decided I needed simple building blocks to derive this truth. Maybe I could build a simple system of truths and extrapolate that to my purpose.

So I looked at my cat and thought, what is the cat’s purpose of life?
I thought for a while and didn’t get very far.   I was not doing very well was I?
So as you do with analysis I moved onto my dog;- what is the dog’s purpose of life?  I thought for a while and didn’t get very far. Shit, I was not doing very well was I?

Then it struck me, the purpose for dog was somehow in being a dog, and the purpose of the cat is somehow in it’s catness. If the cat tried to be a dog, and tried to chase after cars and bark, it would be an unfulfilled silly cat.
And if the dog tried to be a cat by climbing up trees and slink under the house, it would be a pretty unfulfilled dog.

So, the cat’s purpose in life is tied into its catness, and the purpose of the dog is tied into its dogness.

The cat needs to be as much of a cat as it can be, and the dog needs to be as much of a dog as he can be.

Right, so I need to be as much of of a human as I can be – but that does not say enough.

Specifically, I need to as much Kris as I can be. I need to express my Kris-ness as much as I can – In that lies my purpose.

So who-ever you are, your purpose in live is to express your <your name here>-ness.   Be as much yourself as you can be, even if that means you have to march to the beat of a totally different drum.

The terrain of life

We are unbalanced, as it is difficult to be true to ourselves.

We are taught to live normative lives. In your first years you are taught the difference between right and wrong. If you are allowed to rob a home, others are allowed to rob your home.  So the laws and morals of society protects you.

These norms extend to the rules at work, the quirky directives of your boss, the politics at work. We accept the norms, the laws of the land, the morals of our church and we attempt to live according to these.

This is “life on rails”. A person living on rails can be successful. For example, a politician can attain the powers of office.

To live outside the norms of society, is to invite adversity.   Norms are established because they are enforced. Forget about breaking the law. Try to be strange at work. Your colleagues will be afraid to associate you, lest they may be considered strange as well.

If you do not conform to norms, you lead a “life in the wilderness”.   A life in the wilderness has paths less travelled, so you may often find yourself in the brambles.

This does not mean you cannot be successful in your own way.   Martin Luther King went against the norms of his time.   Vincent van Gogh lead a life in the wilderness. In an act of love Vincent presented his ear to a “lady” he cherished, and he was shunned for that.   A person leading a life in the wilderness is not necessarily a “good” or “bad” person, as they may be living a life outside norms of “good” or “bad”.

You may not want to gift your ear, but you will have private thoughts, fantasies. If you do not express your real self, you may be somewhat on rails.

So by the words of William Shakespeare;- Those who want “to be” choose a life in the wilderness, and those that choose “not to be” are on rails.

It may be refreshing to get off at the stations once in a while, and go tramping into the wilderness a bit …

Intelligence and image processing

Intelligence is a fascinating topic as we are defined by our thoughts. And it is hard to create an artificial intelligence (if there is artificial intelligence, there must be artificial stupidity, and there is).

To some extent intelligence represent the ability to recognise patterns. Recognition of faces, worldwide trends, and scientific discovery are all underscored by this ability.

Pattern recognition requires the means to abstract a domain into characteristics that are recognisable. So, if we posses many methods to synthesize or abstract, and we can integrate these methods;- can we create artificial intelligence?

I dont know, but I have created a simple pattern abstraction of images. It can be used to stitch panoramic photos. Find it here.