The politician and a radical islamic petition

When reading the title, they could very well be the subjects of a new plotline of a thriller by Frederick Forsyth, but these are not.
I’m talking about the current controversy around two mishaps, two local PvdA politicians who have signed a rather dubious petition by an even more dubious and perhaps even mischievous group of radical mulims.

We’re discussing Hizb ut Tahrir, a soenni-islamic political organization, who are ultimately striving for the union of all muslims and muslim countries into a caliphate, or a large confederation of united muslims. This country would be lead by the Caliph who happens to be the leader of the islamic community, called Ummah. He also is the highest spiritual leader of the muslims, and this information combined makes up for a state without a separation between the state and the religion.
Not an ideal situation, in my view.

This organization has put up a petition to fight the calumniation of the Islam, although it is considered to be their fight against the upcoming release of an anti-koran film by Geert Wilders (PVV).
As we live in a free country, both expressions of free speech are tolerated and righteous, but that is not the issue here.
At least two local politicians of foreign descent have signed this petition. The petition itself is fairly moderated, yet it is the group behind it that is concerning. Hizb ut Tahrir is striving for their goals, not only with words but as expressed by one of their leaders, also with violence.

A recent interview with Okay Pala revealed a quote by an anonymous signer of the petition: "Wat jullie nodig hebben is een zware bomaanslag". *source*
Luckily, he did not say he agreed with this statement but warned ‘us’ of the things the signers of the petition could do. A very weak standpoint in my opinion. He added to that: "Wij zijn het niet eens met de vrijheid van meningsuiting, want we verwerpen de democratie! Ons alternatief is de islam. Er is geen tussenweg: wij kiezen voor de absolute waarheid, het woord van Allah."
A polarizing opionion at it’s best, an attempt to undermine our state at it’s worst.

This petition was also signed by some respected PvdA local politicians, of which one already had to put down all duties as ‘it was the last strike in a row‘. The other denied she signed it at first, but now had to admit she signed it after some pressure from within the party. I think it’s a bad thing that the party itself did nothing about it, as her individual standpoints clearly contradict not only the views of her own political party, but the organization behind the petition also has radical ideas.

I’m not sure what action should be taken regarding this subject, although I’m convinced a chosen political leader with affections beyond our knowledge at the time of election should not stay in the position, certainly not if the ideas concerned are of this nature.
But then again: that’s my opinion.

"Free" knowledge

Wouldn’t we all like to get that?
Free knowledge, in a society like ours, where knowing stuff is the key to success and a bigger monthly paycheck.

In an effort to reduce the financial burden on (young) families, our Cabinet has ruled in their great wisdom all books in the Dutch version of High school (Middelbaar Onderwijs) should be supplied to all students, regardless of their financial situation or anything else.
As it happens under the cloak of cost reduction for all of those who have children between ages 12 and 18 – ages where kids tend to cost the most – this should relieve the pressure on the parents a bit.
Books are not cheap, and can easily cost up to €500 per child per year.

Now for the hard part: the money which has to be spent by our government to buy all books for these kids (about 120 million euro per year) has to be raised somehow. The question is: how?
After quite some debating over at the ministry of education and the cabinet a solution was found: it should come from raising the traffic fines and also charge the offendors with the transaction costs, a pile of money they had left over in case of rough times and the rapid introduction of revised taxing on gambling. All in all: by making several other things more expensive, something becomes cheaper. How ironic.

Secondly, the teachers concerned are quite worried about the fact that a fixed-pricing system, where the government is the sole buyer, could lead to lower quality of books as the need to compete with eachother on that quality by the editors is now gone. Also, they are foreseeing the misuse of the extra money handed to the schools, without it being used to buy books. The teachers demand tools to check whether the right amount of money has been spent on books, and not on trips to the Efteling, or the redecoration of the office of the head of the school.

Ok, all problems and issues now are overcome, as schools have promised to buy new books on a regular basis, and will use the money only to buy books. There have not been demonstrations against the raises as proposed, nor has anyone thought of the economic consequences of a (reversed) state monopoly on the market for schoolbooks.

Now for the fun part: due to regulations superimposed on Dutch laws by the European Union, projects which exceed (an amazingly low amount of) about €250.000 in price have to be tendered Europe-wide.
Thus: the (groups of) schools have to announce public tenders for them trying to buy schoolbooks, which can be quite lengthy procedures. And there’s the catch.
In 2008 (yes, that would be the year we now live in) the books should be free. And no, a tender-procedure lasts longer than the time that is between today and the start of the next schoolyear in august 2008.

How come this has not been noticed by anyone before?
Oh well: we are stuck with it now, until a new cabinet sees the ridicule of the proposed free availability of schoolbooks, and reverses the law. That’s democracy for you!

How do you feel on this topic? Should books be free? Should the procedure have been more thought out?

Only 2 months to go

The first of November is a milestone date for me.
It’s only 2 short months away from the deadline for my master thesis, and I’m kind of shaky acknowledging this.

So far, I’m still going as planned, with my thesis progressing as scheduled.

My portal quality framework is taking shape real quick and the validation stage is near. I’ll be keeping you posted when need be!

Government regulation of market functions in NL

Yes, today I will post a message about market functions. As many of you know, I study Economics and Informatics which kind of tells you the theoretical how of this post.

"de Volkskrant" informed us August 7th about plans made by dutch parties SP and CDA to limit the trade of tickets to concerts and festivals via the internet. Unfortunately, the original article is in dutch, so for any english speaking visitors I apologize.
This unlikely combination of the CDA (centre-right) and SP (outright left) produces a proposal for a law which a) cannot be enforced, and b) goes straight against the government’s idea to let the market function in a realm of different markets flourish.

The reason for all this is the fact that internettraders often buy tickets to concerts and festivals by large quantities (the article says ‘some’ to ‘dozens’) and try to sell them when the concert or festival is sold out for a much higher price. An example are tickets to the Lowlands festival where tickets were available for around €125, they now ‘do’ between €250 and €300 via traders.
Unpleasant as it is, to pay more than the regular price; we are Dutch after all, it is regular market function at work. When the demand is higher than the supply, the price goes up. Regular fans already bought their tickets to the festival or concert directly after the sales started by going to sales points as soon as possible, and those who want to ‘outsource’ this quick response just pay the price for doing so.

Yes, they may be mad by paying twice the price (or more) for a ticket, but it is a consequence of waiting (too long). Yes, it is unpleasant, and yes, the high prices are there because of the late buyers and clever sellers. But approving legislation to monitor and even limit prices of tickets to maximal the original price is unwanted interference in the market, and should not be accepted. My advice to the CDA and SP: please follow the government on this subject: do not propose laws the regulate the market.

Acceptance

Today has been a big day in my, so far very short, career.

My internship has been approved! I will be busy writing my masterthesis at Ordina, a leading company when talking about SOA and SOA-integration. My job is to write a thesis which not only will grant me a degree at my university, but one that will satisfy the need at Ordina for certain knowledge.
So far, I’m still trying to find an optimal subject for me to write about.

I’m currently still debating, continuing with a longlist of 9 subjects. I will narrow it down to about 2 or 3 subjects to make my final decision. Also, I found myself a thesis-supervisor at the university, mr. Guah. He will be responsible for the approval of my thesis, and support me when needed.

These two combined make up a great week for me, I hope it’ll be like this for quite some time.

Closing time

It’s just one of those times in your life as a student this week: the final week is neigh so the professors are or have been contemplating the final deliverables and our professor for the seminar is no exception to this rule.
In today’s session, which has been held plenary with all groups.
Yes, all three of them.

The deliverables have been announced, and actually span all work we’ve done so far plus a little bit more. We have to come up with a report concerning the following topics:

  • XML
  • XBRL
  • OWL & Ontologies
  • Transforming XBRL into a Ontology
  • The NTP architecture (optional)

With this document we will also have to bundle the ontology we’ve created, in our case we will possibly bundle the two ontologies we’ve created as we’ve based our transformation-paper almost entirely on the couple of ontologies instead of on just one.

Our professor likes to see, in contradiction to what he has told us before, an ontology in a hierarchical way instead of the linear fashion XBRL-taxonomies are created in. Luckily for us, we’ve been quite hard minded since the beginning of the seminar, so we’ve gone the opposite way from the start: our ontology is built in a completely hierarchical way so this requisite is no problem for us. Tomorrow we will focus on the creation of a paper for MC&I, the seminar will have to wait several days as it’s not thát much work anymore. Most of it is luckily done, so that’s quite a big burden gone for us.

Questions posed

Tomorrow, the seminar-class has been canceled as our professor is attending a seminar of his own. It has been rescheduled to Thursday I’ll come back to that then.

While our professor is currently out of town, and even out of our country, we’ve stumbled upon several important questions regarding the transformation of XBRL into OWL, and thus ontologies.
Due to the fact an ontology is designed with several questions which cannot be answered easily in mind, and an XBRL-taxonomy is already set to answer some very specific questions (What was last year’s revenue? How much did we spend on housing? and so on), developing an ontology from that taxonomy is not of any use. When it is just to keep us busy, we can understand but while our professor isn’t able to explain to us what the added value of an ontology is during the group-sessions, we might as well ask him through an email.
And so it is. I’ve just sent an email to him posing several questions with the same subject: Why?

As we get to grips with our more existential questions, we also combined the already constructed ontologies and ‘instances’ to come to a better, more comprehensive and more elaborate version. We are very curious as to how our professor will grade our creation.
I’ll be posting updates soon!

OWLing away

Dealing with several packages of software, most of them currently available under public licences is an art, and most definately an underestimated knowledge. As most software runs on JAVA, which is not a bad thing, the VM very often needs some modifications to be fully up to speed. With my 1Gb of RAM I’m currently experiencing quite a lot ‘out of memory heap’ errors with the JAVA-enabled programs. It can often be fixed by setting the maxHeapSize to a little more agressive behaviour or simply to a lager maximum, but this requires some knowledge and creative thinking.
Being an information technology student this is ok, but for the average user, fiddling about with the java.exe commandline switches might be a barrier which is too steep. Anyway, that was my rant on programs such as Protegé and currently Owl2Prefuse, a beta-release created by one of my fellow students.

Not being able to do what I want is pretty frustrating, especially if you know it has to work, and it might work if the programmer hasn’t been sloppy in actually programming it. This way I had to focus more on getting my stuff right, instead of focussing on the task at hand; converting an XBLR taxonomy into an OWL ontology.

My fellow students, using different software-titles came up with some pretty astonishing pictures, of which I posted two below.
Diderik’s Viz

Nick’s Viz

It took a while…

But then it became clear to all of us: our professor is just trying to get our possible findings published!
(And he is right too! 😀 )

Anyway, today we had the group-session in which the semi-definitive object became clearer. As an assignment for again a group session next week we are to fiddle about with several programs and some XBRL taxonomy to create an ontology. The crux in this is that (of course) we jot our findings down and try to come up with a possibly automatable and hence ‘intelligent’ way of doing so.
As our subject we’ve chosen a taxonomy known to us under the title “DigiForce” which is a relatively simple XBRL-instance about a web shop accompanied by the relevant schema’s.

If we (or I) come up with something useful or otherwise postable I’ll let you know.