Welcome

Dear reader,

Welcome to my web log page. I hope your curiosity to visit here is rewarded.

If you would you like to know more about me then check out my profile.

If you are more interested in the things that keep me busy then you should keep on reading my web log. Here you can read more about topics that are of interest to me as well as topics where I feel something needs to be changed.

Thank you very much for visiting my web log and hopefully I will have the privilege of another visit in the future.

Quirijn Vermeulen

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Coronaleven

Een nieuw virus, met eigenschappen waar menig Ninja jaloers op zou zijn, probeert om de wereld te veroveren. Het virus vermomd zich door eigenschappen van verkoudheid of griep te vertonen.

Bovendien komen deze eigenschappen pas laat naar voren, als de besmettelijkheid al enige tijd daar is en de drager het virus waarschijnlijk al heeft doorgegeven.

Corona is een geduchte tegenstander van het immuunsysteem en maakt handig gebruik van onze moderne reismogelijkheden om zich in rap tempo over de hele wereld te verspreiden.

De leiders van de landen over de wereld proberen met maatregelen te komen om het virus de kop in te drukken, maar het probleem is dat zelfs met testen, er alleen achteraf gereageerd kan worden.

Regels volgen op het zichtbaar worden van de resultaten van de besmetting als het virus inmiddels al weer verder is met verspreiden. We lopen continu achter de feiten aan.

Daarom volgen er regels om thuis te blijven bij verschijnselen, om niet samen te komen als dat niet nodig is, immers het virus verspreid eerst en vertoond zich pas later.

Veel mensen roepen op om ongehoorzaam te zijn, om toch samen te komen, om geen mondkapje te dragen, om je vooral niet de wet voor te laten schrijven door de overheid. Ze denken dat de overheid de situatie misbruikt om macht te krijgen over het volk, om de samenleving aan te passen naar gehoorzame, nee, slaafse volgers.

Echter, de maatregelen slopen de economie, decimeren de inkomsten van de overheid, zo niet nu dan wel in de nabije toekomst. De overheid heeft niets aan mensen, die geen werk, geen geld, geen huis hebben en die voor alles hun hand op moeten houden.

Het klinkt misschien als een machtspositite, maar een overheid die nergens meer inkomsten vandaan kan halen, is een overheid die het volk ook niets te bieden heeft, een overheid die juist machteloos wordt en die uiteindelijk wordt verstoten.

Als er niets meer over blijft van het sociale stelsel dan gaan mensen op zoek naar middelen om te overleven. De overheid speelt dan geen rol meer. Het is een kostenpost, overtollig in de zoektocht naar de basisbehoeften om te overleven.

Daarom is het onzin om te geloven dat de overheid daarop zou willen aansturen. De regels zijn er om te zorgen dat het virus zich lastiger kan verspreiden, juist omdat het verspreiden al plaats vindt voordat het duidelijk is dat het virus aanwezig is.

Ja, er ontstaat momenteel een nieuwe ‘normaal’. Een Coronaleven, met regels die we moeten (Coro-)naleven. Niet, omdat we hierdoor slaafse volgers worden, maar omdat we hierdoor het virus geen kans geven om zicht te verspreiden.

Uiteindelijk kunnen we daardoor met zijn alleen bereiken waar iedereen naar verlangd. Een na-Corona-leven, waar mensen weer sociale contacten kunnen opbouwen en kunnen handelen en reizen zonder beperkingen, een economie, die weer opbloeit. Nogmaals een nieuwe ‘normaal’, waarbij de beperkende maatregelen verdwijnen en de vrijheden van weleer opnieuw mogelijk worden.

Striktheid nu is meer vrijheid later. Dat is de afweging die we met zijn allen moeten maken.

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MadCap Flare: Using conditions to only show text when all conditions are met.

One of the nice features of MadCap Flare is the ability to use conditions to create text that shows in one target and is left out in another target. Due to the way that the conditions work, technical writers (or technical authors, depending on your location in the world) often have a hard time to make text behave the way they like.

One of the hurdles that you come across is that the logic behind the conditions uses the logical ‘or’ to determine if text is shown. Simply put, if A is true, or B is true, or both A and B are true, the text is shown.

To help you understand, here are the logical conditions and what they mean:

or: When A is set, or B is set, or both A and B are set, show the text.
and: Only when both A and B are set, show the text.

 

In the Flare target you have the option of changing the formula using the advanced formula editor, so you can change ‘or’ to ‘and’ for that particular output, but what if you want an ‘and’ for a particular line of text while keeping an ‘or’ for the rest of the page?

That level of detail goes beyond what you can control from your target. The answer is to use nested conditions when you need an ‘and’ and to use multiple conditions in one condition statement when you want ‘or’.

Use nested conditions to force both conditions to be true.

An example:

Let’s say you have a text that has a target for a website and a target for a document. You wish to put a line in the introduction that says ‘On this webpage you will find information about …’ for the website and ‘In this document you will find information about …’ for the PDF document.

Also, the subject of the document has two particular flavors: apples and pears.

So, in total there are two websites and two PDF documents, resulting in four possible sentences. Following the principles for translation, you don’t want to chop up your line into small bits, so you create four sentences:

In this document you will find information about apples.
In this document you will find information about pears.
On this website you will find information about apples.
On this website you will find information about pears.

Now, here’s the problem. If you apply the conditions ‘document’ and ‘apples’ to the first line, Flare will create a condition like this:

<MadCap:conditions=”Target.document,Subject.apples”>In this document you will find information about apples.</Madcap:conditions>

For the second line it is a similar story, but with conditions ‘document’ and ‘pears’ instead, so Flare will create the following condition:

<MadCap:conditions=”Target.document,Subject.pears”>In this document you will find information about pears.</Madcap:conditions>

If the Flare target has the condition Target set to ‘document’ both lines will be shown, because the condition ‘document’ is now true. It ignores whether the other condition is set to ‘apples’ or ‘pears’. This is not what we want, so we need to change the conditions somehow to get Flare to respect both conditions.

To accomplish this, we need to nest the conditions (place one condition within the tags of the other condition), as shown in the example below:

<MadCap:conditions=”Target.document”><MadCap:conditions=”Subject.apples”>In this document you will find information about apples.</MadCap:conditions><MadCap:conditions=”Subject.pears”>In this document you will find information about pears.</MadCap:conditions></MadCap:conditions>

As you can see, it will first check whether the ‘document’ condition is met, if it is, it will then check, whether ‘apples’ condition is true or ‘pears’ condition is true, and show the sentence(s) for which this is true.

Now the line for a document about apples is only shown if the Target is ‘document’ and then if the Subject is ‘apples’.

A second set is created for the websites:

<MadCap:conditions=”Target.website”><MadCap:conditions=”Subject.apples”>On this website you will find information about apples.</MadCap:conditions><MadCap:conditions=”Subject.pears”>On this website you will find information about pears.</MadCap:conditions></MadCap:conditions>

By nesting the conditions, both of them need to be selected for that particular target to show the line in your documentation.

Hopefully, MadCap will one day put this in Flare, so we don’t have to write this code manually, but we can simply select it through the interface. Until then, use this knowledge to your advantage.

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Welkom in Regelland!

Het wordt tijd om Nederland te hernoemen naar Regelland. Een land, waarin elk conflict moet worden opgelost door het bedenken van regels met als doel om vooral niemand voor het hoofd te stoten en elke mogelijkheid tot een nieuw conflict te vermijden. 

Helaas, ook een land, waarin geen van deze regels in voldoende mate wordt gehandhaafd om deze ook maar enigszins effectief te laten zijn, maar dat is bijzaak. Het is geregeld.

Hoe ver onze regeldrift doordraaft blijkt ook deze week weer. We leven (kennelijk!) in een land waarin taalregels door het Centraal Bureau voor Statistiek worden aangedragen. 

Als dat kan binnen de regels dan kan alles! 

Ik kijk alvast uit naar de peilingen van de aankomende verkiezingen door de Taalunie en Het Genootschap Onze Taal, onder de bezielende leiding van de Dikke Van Dale, want kennelijk hoef je je in deze tijden als schoenmaker niet meer te beperken tot de eigen leest.

We leven in een land waarin kinderen straks op school leren: “Sinterklaasje, kom maar binnen met je Nederlander van migratieafkomst met genetisch ingegeven geïntegreerde roetvegen, want we zitten allemaal even recht…” Je dacht toch niet dat het afschaffen van woorden werkelijk een oplossing zou zijn? Welnee! Het onderwijs wordt wellicht wat moeilijker, maar daarmee worden onze scholen weer hoger aangeschreven, toch?

Gelukkig zullen ook die regels wel weer te veel werk blijken te zijn om ze na te leven. 

Zo is er toch nog een sprankje hoop op een feest voor kinderen, waar de kinderfantasie telt en niet de mening van gefrustreerde volwassenen. Natuurlijk moet het feest verder wel aan alle regeltjes voldoen.

Welkom in Regelland!

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Less is more?

The Dutch government has decided to change the tax rates. After the change from 19% VAT to 21 % VAT a couple years ago. The low VAT rate of 6 % is being brought back to just the most basic needs, such as the food you buy in the supermarket.

Most of the other items that used to have the 6 % VAT rate applied will now get a 21 % VAT rate. This includes labour for builders, such as masons, carpenters etc., but also some other occupations such as the hairdresser, for example.

At the same time they are reducing the taxes that need to be paid on the wages, which means that you will get more money on your bank account with the same gross wages.

According to the government the amount of money an average person would get extra is somewhere in the vicinity of 800 euros per year.

However, people say that with the higher taxes, they will probably need to spend double that amount.

Also, the taxes for cars are changed. Except for electric cars that are counted as having zero emission, all cars will now get a high rating for taxes. With most families owning a car that will not meet the new requirements, that means extra costs for the majority of the people.

Of course, we will have to see how it works out, but I have a feeling that the government is trying to paint a pretty picture with more money to spend where in fact they try to rake in even more through the backdoor.

Less is more?

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New, yet familiar

I have just completed my first week in my new job. It has been an interesting week to say the least.

Starting in a new job is always exciting. Everything feels new. However, this time around it was different. Perhaps, I should explain that, although I started working at a new company that I have never worked at before, the company came forth from another company that I have worked for before.

So, I experienced this weird mix of feelings of starting a new adventure and coming home to a familiar place. It is strange to walk in the first day for introductions and knowing people’s names and starting the conversation with “Good to see you again. How have you been?”.

All I can say is, it sure is good to be back!

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Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet

Al wekenlang laaien de gemoederen hoog op over Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet in Nederland. En dan vooral over Zwarte Piet. Het is discriminatie – dat betekent letterlijk het maken van onderscheid op basis van kenmerken – wat nogal eens wordt verward met racisme – het zich neerbuigend uitlaten over iemand op basis van ras of afkomst en de kenmerken die met het ras of de afkomst worden geassocieerd.

Er wordt moeilijk gedaan over het woord knecht. Zijn huishoudster, werkster, butler ook allemaal woorden, die neerbuigend en discriminerend – nee, racistisch – zijn?

Ik vind het opvallend dat op dit punt de volwassenen omgaan met Zwarte Piet als kleine kinderen, terwijl het juist de kinderen zijn die hier hun volwassenheid tonen door het te zien voor wat het werkelijk is: een kinderfeest.

Waar gaat het nu eigenlijk om?

Sinterklaas, of eigenlijk Sint Nicolaas, was de bisschop van Mira. Deze man had twee zaken waarvoor hij zich inzette: weeskinderen en slavenarbeid. Voor weeskinderen zorgde hij voor eten en kleding. De slaven kocht hij vrij. Hij bood ze onderdak, voedsel en een betaalde baan als knecht. Ze kregen mooie kleren aan (wat oneerbiedig als ‘apepakkies’ wordt aangeduid is de kleding van de rijken uit die tijd met kanten kragen, kousen, drollenvangers, schoenen met gespen, zoals je ook de adel op schilderijen kunt zien dragen). Ja, de kleuren zijn vrolijk gemaakt. Het is een feest, dus niet van die depressieve donkere tinten in de kleding.

Ter nagedachtenis aan deze man, die het goede voorbeeld gaf, is het Sinterklaasfeest ontstaan in Nederland en België. Er zijn echter vergelijkbare feesten elders in de wereld. De Kerstman is er van afgeleid (Saint Nicholas lijkt niet voor niets erg op Sint Nicolaas) en heeft elven in plaats van Pieten. In Duitsland bestaat ook een soort Sinterklaas, maar die heeft eng uitgedoste geesten als helpers.

Voor de meeste kinderen zal Zwarte Piet dan ook meer vergelijkbaar met een sprookjesfiguur zijn, zoals dwergen of elven. Als een kind naar iemand ‘Zwarte Piet’ roept, omdat het kind een gelijkenis ziet dan is dat positief bedoeld. Voor kinderen zijn Zwarte Pieten leuk, ze delen cadeautjes uit en snoep. Dat is ook de associatie die het kind ziet.

Het is de volwassene die er iets achter zoekt, die het verband legt met slavernij, met discriminatie – nee, racisme! Het is de volwassene die hier de hand in eigen boezem moet steken en eerlijk toegeven dat het de eigen bekrompenheid is die er voor zorgt dat de lading van de woorden negatief is geworden.

Doe jezelf en anderen een plezier. Laat de kinderen hun kinderfeest vieren zonder het te bederven met spoken uit je eigen verleden.

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MH-17 – Caught in the middle

It has been a couple of days since Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 crashed in a rebel occupied part of the Ukraine, leaving everybody on board dead. It soon became clear that this crash was not due to pilot error, poor maintenance, material fatigue or a flaw in the construction of aircraft. It was clear from the spread of the pieces that this aircraft broke up into many pieces while still high up in the air.

The attention immediately shifted to an explosion of some sort, be it a missile fired at the aircraft, a bomb in the aircraft, or something causing explosive decompression on such a major scale that the aircraft lost it’s structural integrity.

In the past days we have seen a whole series of reactions to this event: disbelief, insecurity, anger and outrage.

Disbelief

  • that a commercial aircraft can be brought down this way with all these security measures in place in airports all over the world.
  • that an airline would fly an aircraft over territory where other planes had been shot down.
  • that in this world the different organizations for controlling airspace do not work together close enough to all have the same rules in place.
  • that airlines do not use the same rules when it comes to passenger safety.
  • that a group fighting for control in their region would attack people not involved in the fight.
  • that individual groups can apparently get their hands on such powerful weapons.

Insecurity

  • that apparently with all safety measures in place there still is a chance of something like this happening. Several planes were flying that same route, so it could have been any one of them. MH-17 was a random victim in that respect.
  • that even with the planes flying around the hot zone now there is no real way of knowing this will not happen again. How do we know the route is safe? If the battlefield shifts, will we know in time?
  • that news images were showing movement of parts, bodies without anyone knowing where they were moved to.
  • that it all depends on word of mouth to inform everyone without any structured channels for communication.

Anger

  • that it took so long to organize access to the crash site.
  • that the debris was touched before it could be photographed, cataloged and placed on a map.
  • that governments were too busy pointing fingers, instead of focusing on getting the site secured, on getting the victims and their belongings back to their loved ones.
  • that a tragedy like this was turned into an attention frenzy by news media.
  • that with all our power in this modern day and age we can’t make a crash site a safe place whereas a group of rebels can keep control.

Outrage

  • that images showed people believed to be part of the cause were disturbing the scene.
  • that suitcases were opened and searched for content.
  • that items of value appeared to be taken from the bodies.
  • that countries involved promised to help get access to the crash site, help with the investigation, but the words did not appear to be followed by much action.
  • that in days after the crash two military aircraft were shot down, meaning there was nothing learned from what happened.
  • that the victims were not treated with more dignity.

The truth is, though, that there is a civil war going on in Ukraine. A war between the government and a minority group who would rather be part of Russia than Europe. One side appears to be supported by an outside power, even though the ‘outsider’ will do everything they can to deny it. The other side is the government who tries to stop the fight and at the same time get everything back to the way it was before the whole situation started (to be fair, preferably including getting Crimea back as well). The people are caught in the middle. They don’t have any weapons other than their voice, their writing and if they are brave enough, a vote under hostile circumstances.

It is an explosive situation that victimizes the people living there the most. Be it that their family or relatives are soldiers on either side, or that their town has been invaded, their houses have been taken by forces in the area. Nobody can predict how it will all end, who will win and who will loose, if you can even call one a win and the other a loss with victims on all sides.

Whatever perspective you may have on this, flight MH-17 was not involved in this fight. The crew and the passengers were not part of the fight. The passengers were holiday makers, people flying home, people flying to a congress on HIV, or on a business trip, people trying to earn a living.

Severe weather in the region caused the plane to deviate from the normal air corridor. It is something pilots do routinely to keep the passengers safe and to keep the movement of the plane to a minimum, because people tend to find turbulence a little scary.

These pilots tried to keep the flight safe by flying around the storm instead of through it. If only they would have known what consequences their faithful decision would have on the outcome of the flight and the lives on board this silver bird.

Probably, they would have taken an alternate course, maybe fly north of the storm instead of south, it will always remain unanswered.

In the end the simple truth is that MH-17 was caught in the middle of an internal conflict, turning the eye of the world onto the situation and starting the blame game. Let’s face it, nobody wants to admit that they made a mistake that caused 298 people and several animals to have their lives cut short. Even though the intention of the method used is basically to end a human being’s life.

My heart goes out to all of the people who have lost someone due to this tragic event. I can not even begin to understand the pain and grief a sudden loss like this had brought to those who are left behind.

I can only hope that this will result in talks world wide to make sure flying becomes even more secure. I feel the organizations that determine (and protect) the safety of air space need to get together and put regulations in place to warn their partner organizations around the world when they have information that makes them decide to close down air space. With combined flights, or code sharing, going on in commercial aviation it should not matter what airline carries out your flight or what organization they turn to for air space safety information. Also, it shouldn’t be a “Well, they didn’t ask us, so we didn’t tell them.” situation. As requested from any employee in a business, be proactive, not reactive.

Politically, there is a lot more to do, I know. That will be a slow and lengthy process. Let this be an extra step independent of what the politicians do to solve this situation. A responsive measure taken by the aviation branch to show they learn from events involving aircraft, as they pride themselves for doing after most aviation incidents.

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European elections – part II

Tomorrow the European Union elections take place in the Netherlands. They want us to give them a vote of confidence for being capable of leading Europe with vision and decisiveness. Yet, after all this time they still have not even managed to roll back the decision to make Strasbourg the main seat of the European Union instead of Brussels, even though it’s costing us 180 million for them to move to Strasbourg for 4 days every month.

This decision was made at the time as a symbol for Germany and France working together and was written down in the Foundation for the European Union. Big mistake!

Even though, almost everyone is convinced the seat in Brussels is far more preferable, they still haven’t managed to stand up to France and say “It’s a bit of tough luck you’re having.” and changing that situation.

If correcting that situation has taken all these years to roll back, why should we even believe that they are capable of being decisive and act swiftly on other matters?

Seriously, there are some points where working together as one Europe has its advantages, but the European Parliament needs to be reformed and the people of the European Union should have a possibility to use a referendum to put things right in cases like this.

After all, they want democracy, which means ruling by the people, not the members of parliament.

Also, there are 571 members of parliament, why so many? The smallest countries now get 6 seats in parliament. I would say, divide the whole thing by 6. The smallest countries get 1 seat and the rest proportional. It should not significantly change the outcome and the balance of power within Europe, but at least it’s 6 times cheaper to maintain!

What do you think?

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European elections

The European elections are getting near and although I can see the importance of voting I feel the democratic system of the European Union is flawed in a similar way to the Dutch local democratic system.

Actually, it is not a democracy at all. It’s ruling by parties, not people. The whole point is that the people do not actually get a say in the individual topics at hand. We get a single vote for a (person within) a party and then the parties that have won enter these weird negotiations to reach an agreement that has a majority of party representatives within the European Parliament supporting it. So, it might even be that the topic(s) you used to cast your vote have been scratched from the resulting agreement.

The parties then declare that they represent the majority of voters in the European Union and try to create policies to implement that items in the agreement. When people object, they state that they have received the votes to support their point of view on the subject at hand and as such we are to blame for the result. Yeah, right!!

I know that getting everyone to vote on any single law or policy (which would constitute the true meaning of a democracy) is problematic to say the least. People may not have the knowledge to answer the question at hand, or they may simply not care about the topic at all.

Still, there should be a mechanism where we have more control over the issues at hand. The people living in the European Union we should at least have the power to decide on the general direction to go for each of the major topics, perhaps by using a referendum.

Mind you, it doesn’t have to be about every single detail. It should give the people the power to correct what the policy makers try to force down our throats. See it as an approval of the final design. I think it could also benefit politicians. Since a majority has decided on the general direction of each main item in the agreement, the argument that the politicians are doing whatever they want becomes less powerful.

Politicians should realise that in a democracy they work on behalf of the people they represent. They spend money on behalf of those same people. Most importantly, it still is the money of those people. It’s not the money of the politicians and it would show so much more wisdom if they would budget accordingly.

A politician in a democracy is a servant, a caretaker, not a decision maker, even though most politicians seem to think that their job means that they are in control.

The elections are just around the corner. There is still time for politicians to show that they do understand real democracy, although their personal hunger for power will probably prevent them from even seeing it.

So, what do you think? Elections in the European Union still worth it, or a waste of time and money?

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‘ranje-blanje-bleu – The Dutch flag

It’s May 5th today, a day of celebration in the Netherlands. We celebrate our liberation from the German occupation in 1945, that was a result of the 2nd World War.

This day also marks the end of a period where the Dutch become very active with their flag. Several important events that the Dutch raise the flag for are fairly close together.

It all starts on the King’s birthday, which was celebrated on April 26th this year (because the 27th was a Sunday), but is normally on April 27th. So, there’s an exception right at the start.

(Until last year it used to be the Queen’s birthday and it was held on April 30th, which wasn’t actually the birthday of Queen Beatrix, but instead the birthday of her mother Princess Juliana. To thank her mother Beatrix decided to keep her mother’s birthday as Queen’s day. Part of the reason was also that Beatrix’s birthday is in January and that would mean it would often still be too cold for the outdoor celebrations).

The Dutch flag (red, white and blue) is raised and an orange banner is added to symbolize the Dutch Royal family.

On May 4th it’s time again to raise the flag. This time only half way, because on May 4th we remember the people who gave their lives during the 2nd World War.

On that day there is also 2 minutes silence at 8 pm. If you’re in the Netherlands as a tourist on that day you may find that public transport stops for 2 minutes around that time.

One day later, it’s time to raise the flag back to the top as we celebrate the liberation of the Netherlands on May 5th.

The history of the Dutch flag

So, how come the Dutch used to refer to their flag as “‘ranje-blanje-bleu“, which was based on the French colour names and means Orange, White and Blue?

The reason for that is that the Dutch flag used by William of Orange used to have different colours. Although the flag for trade vessels always kept red and not orange, the military ships used the orange that was also known as the Prince’s flag. The flag consisted of three equal horizontal strips of fabric. The width to height ratio of the flag is 3:2.

The strip at the top had an orange colour for the prince’s flag and a bright red for the commercial flag. The strip in the middle was white and the one at the bottom was light blue, almost a sky colour.

The blue and the orange got darker over time and the flag became similar to the one of Luxembourg. To make a more clear difference, the blue was darkened considerably, the red became a deeper red (vermilion red).

As a reminder to the royal family a banner was added with a bright orange colour. The banner is only used for days related to the royal family, although these days people also use it these days when we celebrate a victory of the Dutch national football (soccer) team.

These days we don’t mention the colours any more. It is referred to as “De Hollandse driekleur” (The Dutch tricolour).

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