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Pro choice

With elections passed in Finland and coming in England there are a lot of articles about the choices we can make. What issues are raised and what points of view are taken. As a good democrat I try to follow what is going on and think a bit about the future of democracy.

When the Greeks invented democracy things where relatively easy. There were less people so everyone who wanted to have a say could have a say. Nowadays we are with many. The empires we create ever larger. An individual voice does not mean so much any more. The more voices, the less one voice means. This is the paradox of a democracy.

I like options. I like to able to choose. In daily life I choose all the time. When I buy a new computer I weigh all the extra options against the cost they bring. Value for money we call that. But the more I research, the more confusing it gets. My options shift, conditions apply, my choices blur. Thus it is so in politics. There are many political issues to which the choice is crystal clear, but some are wildly confusing. What to think? You don’t know. Leave it to experts? Or the politicians? If yes, better stay at home and not vote.

That’s exactly what we do when confronted with an uncertain future. Before we make an actual choice, we choose to decide or not to decide. We are often lazy. We go along with a decision that someone suggests to us, because it sounds reasonable. No tweaking, no adjustments, no personalization. In the IT world the preprogrammed choice is called a default. It is easy you don’t have to think and you are guided into a certain decision.

gordian_knotOne example is the notes you can get the bank. There are six preprogrammed choices, having to with the values that were there when Finland still had the Mark. I sometimes take the “other” sum, because I don’t want 4 notes of 50. Instead I like to have a few more notes of 20. So I change the sum to 210. That gives me 3 notes of 50 and 3 of 20. Perfect! I made my choice. Just what I wanted! I made a choice according to my own wishes. Not what the bank offered me, but my own. Nice!

Another is health care. In Finland we have KELA. It sets standards for health care and regulates pensions etc. I like KELA. Why? Because I don’t have to make choices. KELA does that for me. In a market driven health care system that we have in the Netherlands you have to make a lot of choices. About what you want insure, how high a premium you can afford, what general practitioner to take etc. It is highly complicated. Even insurance companies have trouble to plan their behavior in the market. I don’t like that. Sometimes it is better not to have so much choice.

The problem is that we shut down when issues become too complicated. We see a gordian knot and we walk away from it because we are scared to choose when the consequence of making an error is high. This risk aversion makes us go along with the majority. I have heard it say many times that an X million people can’t be wrong, but that’s nonsense of course. Anyone can go wrong, also in massive numbers (if you believe me count the number of Justin Bieber fans). However it could be worse. If you were never given a choice, that would be worse. That would be dictatorship or slavery! It is better to have a choice. It is a freedom that is worth defending.


Hang ‘m high

gallowsEvery time someone commits a hideous crime I hear calls to hang ‘m high or something other to that effect. People can be blood thirsty animals when a crime is committed. Personally I feel out of my depth in such cases. I feel empathy for the victim and the family of victim. Naturally, I would say, but also with the perpetrator. I would like to know hän’s side of the story. Too much empathy. I would not be a good judge. As a judge you have to be objective. But what kind of standards would you apply. I lay out two cases with two kinds of judges:

Case A: A woman has killed her spouse after a year of being beaten up by him.
Case B: A man has parked his car repeatedly in front of ambulance exit.

Judge Max Reasonable Revenge says: In case A the woman needs to be hanged because she causes the death of another. That’s something society cannot allow. In case B the man gets a 1000 euro fine, because it’s a repeated offense.

Judge Min Damage to Society says: In case A the woman will not kill again because the incentive to do so is removed. To deter others from killing casually she gets a prison sentence. In case B the man should be hanged. His behavior will one day cause the death of someone who needs medical care fast. Moreover letting him off the hook will invite others to do the same.

The first judge tries to exact revenge proportionally to the deed being done. Hän might take mitigating circumstances into account, but that does not take away the fact hän has an eye for an eye philosophy.

The second judge tries to avoid similar crimes in the future. To hän it is essentially is a matter of minimizing the impact of crime on society.

These are simple text book examples. I am sure everyone gets taught them in law school, but for myself I never got a clear picture until I saw a BBC program with the examples above. (If you asking me for a source I am sorry, it must have been at least 20 years ago). It is easy demand revenge, but when the consequence is that the woman should be hanged we feel that the latter judge is right. However that would also imply that hän would hang us if we ever parked our car wrong (in spite of us having the best possible reasons). These law philosophy have conflicting outcomes. A judge always balances between them. Revenge versus the chance of repetition and the damage that it causes. That’s why I am glad I am not in that seat. I would not know how to judge.


Happily living in a democracy!

IwantyouIt’s election time in Finland. And while I am not a Finnish national I am happy to take part in the campaign and happy to live in a democracy. This country even has an elected head of state. Not fake like in neighbouring Russia, but a real one that needs to convince people why hän is the right the person for the job. It’s way I like to see things.

Democracy is precious thing and a source of concern is that over the last decade it has gone globally into decline. The guardian of 27th of March reports that 11 opposition leaders are behind bars facing jail or death. The countries being Venezuela, Ethiopia, Maldives, Kuwait, Democratic Republic of the Congo,Tanzania, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland and Burundi. Many of these countries lie in Africa and you might think that it is reason enough for being backward, but the cause of decline of democratic values is in each case wildy different.

However, what for me immediately catches the eye is Venezuela. It used to be a democratic country until Hugo Chávez, a left populist, came to power. During his in office democracy took a big blow. And while he enjoyed a lot of popular support his successor Nicolás Maduro does not. It has led to ever harsher suppression of the opposition. Another country is Kuwait. Wasn’t that the one Americans fought for to free from Saddam Hussein? You would think that a more lenient, democratic government would be in place now. But that hardly seems to be the case.

Democracy in decline. It should worry us. And yet there are other things that bother us. The borders of the EU are restless to the point that some politicians are longing for the days of autocratic regimes along the Mediterranean. That seems to me wishing for more trouble. The autocratic regimes were toppled because they were not stable enough to endure. And Putin sets an example of being the kind of dictator that will take democracy away from you if you don’t have the weapons to defend it. What is needed is a formula to promote democracy where it is does not exist. What really spooks me is that since world war II we have developed no framework to extend our democratic values to others. In the cold war we were only too happy to accommodate anyone who was nice to us. Never minding what they did to there own people. Now that comes back to haunt us. Europe is still an isle of democracy and it is a real victory that we have drawn the eastern block into our democratic camp, but there it has stopped. We had no solution for post-jugoslavia and now we are helpless in the aftermath of the Arab spring. That bothers me. It might seem a matter of no interest for anyone here, however the middle-east is already boiling over and it looks like it only will get worse. It will soon turn into global issue. Then we have to deal with it, whether we like it or not. I wish we had a cunning plan.


How to get rid of a telemarketer?

Telemarketers are a pesky kind of people. To many the profession ranks close to a Jehova witness or a paparazzi. Since I am not belonging to either the rich or famous the last group is not interested in me. Good thing, a life that is permanently in the spotlight is not for me. I like to sit naked on my balcony with a beer in between sauna sessions. You might think me an exhibitionist, but fact of the matter is that no one can see me without going through great efforts! You must be either a paparazzi or a pervert to go that far (Probably both). But, nobody is watching and even if they did, they would not care. Blissful anonymity! Nevertheless, in Britain they would immediately call the police. Send a psych and screw me up like in a clockwork orange setting. No I am happy, living in Finnish suburbia.

Jehova witnesses never seem to come here. To far, to walk? Written off neighborhood? I don’t know. Fact is I never see them, which is fine to me. Also others who have monopoly to the ultimate truth never seem to think it belongs here. They must think that all who live in Vierema have all hope abandoned.

telemarketer2Back to the telemarketers. My innocent colleague often has them on the phone. He is polite. He answers their questions, because that’s the intro. It always begins with a survey, after that they come to the heart of the matter. Would you like a subscription to such-and-such magazine? Hmm, hmmm, nayy. We have this offer, you know? OK! Fall for it a couple of times and you are on hit list. They never go away. Of course I understand them. Telemarketers have a lousy job. You get lousy paid for your efforts, and only a decent bonus when you score a customer. The only advantage is that you can do it at home (Yes, mobile is possible, but you have to keep a log about customer responses. That’s not so easy when traveling). Sometimes call centers are in India, but the number of Indians that speak Finnish is so low that companies have ditched that idea. No most telemarketing calls in Finland are made by Finnish native speakers. They immediately run into snag when they call me. Hello, Jos Helmich speaking. Clack!!! The shortest conversation ever. Some have the decency to ask “Puhutko Suomea?”, but when I say something English back it is quickly goodbye. Apparently it is not the creme-de-la-creme of society that is hired for jobs like this. Telemarketer experiences are a running joke among the immigrant community in Finland. I often advise my colleague to speak English if he does not recognize the number. I think it would help, but he is polite. Maybe they are offering socks. He needs some new ones soon.


The trolls that eat your vegetables

It’s already common in tech-industry that some company claims a perfectly ordinary computer routine (like clicking your mouse on an icon) as one of their inventions. Patented here and there in various parts of the world. Patenting itself is not so difficult. In the US it happens without a thought. The difficulty comes when you start sending letters to other companies demanding money for your invention. Then you are immediately facing a court battle. The outcome of that determines whether you can make actually money out of your invention or not. It goes without saying that you need deep pockets to make your claim stick. As a small inventor you need the backing of bigger brother and you are probably happy to sell it for thousands even when big brother will make millions.

Patent troll

Enter the patent trolls! These are companies that skim the market for inventions. They usually have some hollow technical names, but patent trolls don’t produce anything substantial. You might not think highly of either google, apple or microsoft, but those companies at least produce something (tablet, phone, game console, software) that makes us happy. The trolls don’t. Nothing ever left their offices but legal mumbo jumbo with the smell of a hold-up.

Now that I have described to you what a patent troll is, it is easier to explain why it is so serious that their kind is spreading to other areas of technology. In this case agriculture! Agriculture, you say? I don’t blame when you start rolling your eyes. Agriculture is quite basic isn’t it? Something we know how to do for millenia. How can that be patented?

fieldThe truth is that innovations are still made. We breed varieties, we test varieties under different conditions. We try to modify the genes so that the vegetables become more resistant to certain diseases etc. In other words, we try to invent something new all the time. It is perfectly normal that the inventors want money for their inventions, so we submit those inventions to the European Patent Office (EPO). This is not problem. The problem comes when patent trolls enter the market. They are claiming that some normal properties of plants are their inventions!

According to a Dutch MOT-like program called Zembla large companies file more and more patents on natural properties of ordinary vegetables, like broccoli. The 10 largest vegetable seed companies in the world have at the moment 19 patents on natural properties of vegetables. 132 patents are waiting for approval from the European Patent Office, reports Zembla.

The patents can be used to monopolize a vegetable market and to block free access to vegetable materials (like seeds). This will put a strangle hold on ordinary farmers. Zembla notes that the US multinational Monsanto, a leader in genetically modified crops, currently holds 5 patents on vegetables. Furthermore they have 60 pending patents (nearly half of all filed). The Swiss company Syngenta currently holds 4 patents on vegetables, and has 26 applications pending. The largest Dutch vegetable seed company “Rijk Zwaan” has 3 patents and 25 applications pending.

When asked about the patent that the company has for broccoli with an extra long stem, Monsanto responds “We were the first who managed to develop such a broccoli It is legal..”

Their response is the hallmark of a true patent troll. Fortunately, we consumers have also some power. For one to stay informed. To buy or not to buy, and last but not least to push our politicians to do something about it. After all they make the laws and determine what is legal.


Crime and punishment

President Joko Widodo

President Joko Widodo

As I write this two Australians are under threat of death penalty in Indonesia. Before them one Dutch man was executed for a similar (drug) offense. This in spite of calls for leniency on the highest level. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands tried to stop the execution by a personal call on the Indonesian President Joko Widodo. However the answer was still “no”. Also now,  in the Australian cases, President Joko Widodo has no mercy. Australia has tried everything, begging, threatening, bribing (prisoners trade), but no avail. You must think that the President of Indonesia is a barbaric person.

And yet, I think, that’s not the whole truth. Joko Widodo is a pious muslim. He is about as virtuous you can get in such a big country at such a high level. It might serve as reminder that the guy he beat in last election was a general with a reputation for torture, mass murder and corruption (Prabowo Subianto). If you think that he won with overwhelming majority you are wrong (53.15%). Joko Widodo’s power base is smaller than that of his generals. Strict adherence to the law is a necessity to keep them in line.

So in that sense it is no surprise that Dutch and Australian pleas for leniency went to deaf ears. But in a larger sense there is also another problem. President Widodo said as much when he refused to give a pardon. Western countries should respect other nation’s laws! This, I think, is the heart of the matter.

raver-dancingWhat happens when a twenty-one year old nice looking disco babe from the Netherlands goes to India to get some drugs? She comes to airport. Acts a bit nervous. A policeman sees it, and puts a dog to smell. Now it depends where that airport is. If it was Schiphol (Amsterdam), she would get a sentence of a couple of months (if it was the first time). If the airport is in Jakarta, she would face a sentence of tens of years. That’s not a nice prospect to look forward too. Spending the best years of your life in a crowdy prison where anyone can harass you. You could say “why didn’t she think of this before?”. And then I can only say “good question”. There are many who would feel for her. Her parents would be in tears. The newspapers would publish a story about her every day. Her friends would say that she is actually a nice girl and make calls to set her free.

None of that would really help. Help usually goes through the diplomatic channels. We have embassies, and part of what they do is trying to get our citizens back to our society. Sometimes we succeed. When a criminal is sent back to where she (or he) came from we review the sentence according to our own laws. That often means immediate release. Happy foolish criminal!

However the countries that delivered the criminals to us view that as absurd. Here, they have caught some bad apples and we are setting them free! Just like that! It is because we have made so many petty criminals happy this way that countries like Indonesia and India don’t want to give them to us any more. They don’t listen to us when we try to convince them that they should treat criminals the way we treat them. In their view our laws are more corrupt and immoral than theirs. So, many of our fellow citizens are left to rot in their prisons. The circumstances of imprisonment are never good in countries where there is lot of poverty. There are good chances you die from violence or disease before your release date. Wouldn’t it be better to be in a western cell than in an Asian cell? That’s something to think about.

Maybe we should do as President Widodo said. Respect the sentence of his nation. Maybe we get some prisoners back when we guarantee that they don’t get free the moment they hit European soil. Twenty years might then still be twenty years, but you will be cared for and at least you can see your loved ones now and then. And it will also serve to foolish ones as a reminder. You don’t get off the hook. Even when they let you come back here.


D.O.P.

Today I take you the supermarket. My choice of supermarket is never fixed. It is determined more by the kind of ingredients I need for coming days then any other consideration. Lidl, citymarket, prisma, siwa and a standard K or S-market have all strengths and weaknesses.

Today I need some olive oil. That kind of rules out the smaller supermarkets. I like to have some Greek olive oil. Not as a matter of principle, but to help the Greek economy a bit. European solidarity you know. It is precious thing nowadays.

sitia03-label

Sitia (a town in East Crete) is a main producer of olive oil

There are also other reasons. When I was in Crete on a trip several things about olive oil were explained to me. One thing was that practically the whole island is covered with it. Greek gets EU-subsidy for that because olive oil is healthy, but it is impossible to cheat. Satellites make pictures of the island. So EU-bureaucrats know exactly how many trees you have and how much it can produce. Picking the olives is very labor intensive so people tend to rent their plot to others. They deliver it to the factory and give the land owner part of the produce and the money.

Because sun light can spoil olive oil the Greeks keep the olive oil in cannisters, not in bottles (One of problems that began to occur when the crisis started is that the quality of the olive oil in cannisters has gone down. The cannister nowadays stands for unreliable olive oil). Most of the bottles are for export. Greek bottles are usually quite dark, whereas the Italian ones are total see through. I often wonder why. Don’t the Italians have the same problem with sun and olive oil? Are they rich enough not to care? Or is it a cultural difference? Another mystery is the role that the Greeks attach to the acidity of olive oil. The degree of acidity in olive oil indicates the free oleic acid content. Olive oil is edible when it has an acidity of 3.3% or less, but as a rule of thumb you can say that the acidity should be no more than 1%, whereas superb olive oil has to have an acidity of 0.3% or less! Acidity indicators are prominent on all Greek bottles, but when I look at the Spanish and Italian bottles I can find none. Maybe Italians attach less value to the acidity than Greeks do.

On the Italian products the D.O.P (Denominazione di Origine Protetta – Controlled designation of origin) sign is prominent. This, I know, is far more important to them. I once ran into a heated discussion with Italian family of mine about it. Why would Parma ham have to come from Parma? Can’t we simply regard it as a kind of ham that can be produced anywhere in EU? Now German pigs are sent to Parma to be slaughtered there so we can call it Parma ham. It seems a bit fake to me. Of course that was not the case! I was wrong! But why I was wrong I never really understood.

Feelings about food run deep, also in Italy. But I found a perverse joy when an Italian olive oil factory on Sardinia had used Greek olives! The yield in Italy had been bad that year. So they turned to the Greeks. Big scandal! Because they still put an DOP-label on it. For all I know the quality of the olive oil might actually have improved that year, but the Italians did not see it that way. National pride. It’s a big thing. Crazy guys those Romans I hear you think. In Finland everything is so much better!

hyvaa_suomesta_-merkkiYes, Finland’s DOP sign is the swan. If possible that swan would be put on every potato, but you can do only so much. The swan is on every milk container. It would be terrible if some of that milk would be Swedish! Or worse yet, Dutch or German! Fortunately we can afford paying Valio for their monopoly, so we have no problem there.

My eyes gaze over the vegetables. The signs indicate “Hollantilainen”, Espanja, Suomi. Sometimes “Israel” or “Puola”. Apparently Finland is not as self-sufficient as it thinks itself to be. I know that the Spanish crop might be here because Dutch farmers have bought firms in Spain. The same with Norwegian fish. The salmon in their fjords is produced by Dutch owned firms. The relationships in the world of food production are blurred. Who owns what? I don’t have a clear picture, but I can only shake my head at people who think that their patriotism would help the country. The world has grown too interconnected for that.


Putting it to the vote

voteToday I like to tell a bit about the special position you have as a foreigner when it comes to voting in Finland. The issue came up some time ago at a meeting of the Greens in which I participated. What are the democratic rights of a foreigner in Finland? It seems that it is either more than you think or less than you think.

Of course when you have a Finnish passport, you are a Finn. We are not allowed to discriminate according to gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation or whatever. So with a Finnish passport come Finnish rights. That’s the easy one. It’s different when you don’t have a Finnish passport. My inability to learn Finnish always prevented me from making that application, So I remain Dutch. That’s not a punishment, but it makes my stay here permanently temporary, if you know what I mean.

Because Finns and Dutchies are both EU-citizens we have this law that everyone who lives 5 years permanently in some municipality can vote and be voted for in that municipality. That’s nice. It makes you feel more a part of a community when you are granted rights like that.

In the Netherlands I also could have voted for the government at regional level (Say Häme), but foreigners in the Netherlands don’t have that right and in Finland there is no such elected government. What counts in Finland is parliament and president. Both of which I cannot vote for.

I can vote for the parliament of the Netherlands (the commons). I belong to the voting district of The Hague (Haag)! It’s a big voting district because every Dutchie abroad belongs to it. If all those people abroad voted it would have a huge impact on Dutch politics. But they don’t. You have to tackle some bureaucracy before you can vote and that makes many people give up beforehand. Most people who left don’t feel involved any more, so the votes from the expats are always in the margin.

eu_flag_europe_for_citizens_enWhile it is true I cannot vote for Finnish parliament and president, I get my rights back at a higher level. That of the EU-parliament. Here I have more rights than a normal Finn, because I can choose which country to vote for. The Netherlands or Finland? What shall I do this time? Every five years I get a letter from the city The Hague (Haag) and the maistraatti asking me about my preferences.

While I feel flattered that my vote is so precious that two countries are asking me about it, I feel that one step is still missing. Why can’t I vote for a Greek, German or French politician? It is a democratic deficit that such thing is not possible. I understand that nationalist and regional considerations can play a role, but as long as I can’t vote for someone with a different nationality we are not one Europe.


Intelligence and forecasting

There is a theory that says intelligence is not so much a function of your ability to solve problems (as measured by the IQ-test), but as a function of the ability to predict the future. Also the ability to put of current rewards in favour of future rewards seems a better indicator for future success than the ability to solve problems. A test that measures this ability is called the marshmallow test.

Forecasting, anticipating the future, is something we all constantly do. As humans it made us farmers. People who could work all summer to get a good harvest so that they could store those things and survive the winter. In the darkest days we gorge ourselves because in those days it was more safe to keep food inside your stomach than outside of it. Again we anticipate what will be and act accordingly.

I have considered whether or not people who constantly worrying are somehow extra intelligent. After all they are constantly busy with the future, but on second thought that does not seem to be case. I would rather say that they get lost in the tree heap of possible futures because they try cover every possibility. That’s not a function of intelligence, but of decision making.

Predicting the future is difficult, but there are some minimal standards you can think of. One method confronts your forecast with the actual value it was meant to predict and tries to minimize the deviation. For example if I predict that the temperature tomorrow is 10c, I have a deviation of -2 when it happens to 8c tomorrow. 12c would have been equally bad, so in my loss function I have the following equation

loss = (actual_value[i] – predicted_value[i])² + (actual_value[i+1] – predicted_value[i+1])² + …

By squaring each deviation we perform a maths trick that makes 8-10 as bad as 12-10. All these baddies we sum and it’s easy to see now when every actual value equals the predicted value the loss is zero (the minimum of the function).

Naive forecasting

My favourite way to predict the weather is to assume that the weather tomorrow is the same as today! This method works wonderfully well in normal (read stable) circumstances, but it does not take into account storms that come from far away, but are upon you in less than a day. For such cases you need satellite data and smarter models. Also the forecasting horizon is limited (1 day). If I were to predict the weather for 90 days by assuming it would not change during that period I would be off by a complete season! Obviously thinking that weather tomorrow will be the same as today has it’s limitations. Yet this method provides a benchmark of sorts. If you can’t do better than this naive method you have a lousy forecasting method!! The loss function of the naive method is easy to calculate based on historical data (forecasting horizon is one day). Simply take the first differences of the actual values

loss = (actual_value[1] – (actual_value[0])² + (actual_value[2] – actual_value[1])² + etc.

If the “loss” of your method is higher than this value dump your forecasting model, if it is closer to zero than you have done something right.

Sometimes I wonder if such an evaluation is made in practice. If we cannot do better than our worst method our models for predicting the future are not better than looking in a glass bowl.


Idols

This week I browsed, (can’t call it reading) through an article on Linkedin about interview questions. There are many such articles. It’s a form of entertainment I guess, because I don’t see the value of it. Anyway, one of the questions was “who is your idol?”. I had to smile, tried to think of one, and came up with Robin Hood! Tell that to your future boss! It’s not the whole story of course. It never is. My first Robin Hood was a fox and King John was a mean lion.

Prince Valiant by Harold Foster

Prince Valiant by Harold Foster

Funny characters. But I had also other heroes. My father’s history books were full of them. Knights in shining armor like King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Prince Valiant (A comic book character). Sea heroes like Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, Admiral Tromp, and Robert Surcouf (A French privateer). Or from Greek mythology Ulysses, Hercules, Jason and Perseus. Ooh, and I should not forget about my pop idols. There were many. From Chuck Berry to Lady Gaga, with a strong accent on what we call classic rock nowadays. Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones. Super rock formations! All heroes to me.

From the top clockwise Rembrandt, Escher, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Bruegel, Rubens, Horta, Magritte.

From the top clockwise Rembrandt, Escher, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Bruegel, Rubens, Horta, Magritte.

Then there are the heroes of science. Einstein, Bohr, Darwin, LaPlace, Lavoisier. They are people who made the world into what is today. You learn about them in class and think that’s great!! Ooh, we also have Dutch heroes of painting. Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Vermeer, Escher, Van Gogh, Magritte, Ruysdael and Rubens.

I should not forget my space heroes! Buck Rogers, Dr Who, John Koenig (space 1999), Captain Apollo and Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, Jean Luc Picard, Captain Sisco. Yes I am a trekkie! Love also starwars. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were everyone’s hero when the first movie came.

Richard Feyman

Richard Feyman

As you are confronted by these people you see inspiration. All of them kindle some flame that is within you. And they they highlight a different aspect of yourself in the current phase of your life.Robin Hood gives you a sense of fairness, King Arthur and his knights a sense for justice and romance. The artists instill the rhythm and beauty of life. The mathematicians and physicists give you an inkling about how the universe works. The heroes of future can make you think about what mankind can achieve.

My heroes change also. Even I still admire Einstein I have begun to like Richard Feyman maybe even more. A colorful man who paid his own bills because he could not stand to fill a form for every trip he made. He got stoned, played music in a night club and was the architect of Quantum Electro Dynamics! Wonderful character! And Richard Dawkins replaced Darwin himself. I admire that totally British style of his. The way he can poke fun of his opponents is really incredible. So Dawkins is a hero, even though he is sometimes a bit fanatic about his atheism.

Now that my heroes have changed, developed to a new stage or sometimes been dumped and replaced by others. That’s good. It’s reflects the ever changing nature of your own development. My heroes will accompany me. All my life.