Thursday, December 20, 2007

Echochroma Concert

On Thursday evening, our faculty musicians organised a concert of New Music in the James Graham Jubilee Room. This was the second "Echochroma" concerts. The setup had 8 speakers distributed in the room. Performers / composers were: Steve Kilpatrick, Tim Crashaw, Kinglsey Ash, Nikis Stavropoulis, Adam Stansbie. The final tribute was given to the recently deceased Karlheinz Stockhausen. A great evening, concluding the work year 2007.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Checking head-worn displays

On Wednesday I drove with the Smart once again across the Pennines: to visit a company which sells head-worn displays. I had arranged for a meeting there with a colleague who too was interested in these displays, and we wanted to check which of the displays would be suitable for the specific tasks we had in mind.

Thanks to a small accident on the M60, I got stuck in a traffic jam for 1h 30 min - and arrived there one hour late.

But then we had a great demonstration of head-worn displays and various VR environments, with interactivity. Now I know what I would include in my next funding bid proposal.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Term: "Slog" and "Slogger"

At the MELD lab pitch on Friday, Garth and myself pitched the idea of a unique automatic recording system for journalists and field reporters. As we were looking for a suitable name of such a system, we came up with the not very catchy name "NEWLSOG".

Well, the term "weblog" also was not very catchy as it came up a few years ago... but it turned into a phenomenon as it was abbreviated as "blog". So in this spirit, a "newslog" would turn into a "slog", and the person who writes / post / authors such a"slog", naturally is a "slogger".

As I did a quick search for this term, not much came up - so I hereby claim this term as a new addition to the buzzwords of the internet.

A more precise definition of "SLOG":
a report about a news event, with geotags and annotated information, possibly embedded within the media itself (website, video, audio). Geo-info and timecode is at the core, but there also can be other tags over the timeline of the story, for example names of people and places, activities, other descriptions.

Happy slogging!

And remember: here is where you saw this term first being coined / mentioned!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The MELD Lab - and the Pitch

The MELD lab went on for 5 days. On Monday, the 15 participants assembled in the Sandbox room, in the 4th floor of the University of Lancashire new Media Factory. QA fabulous facility, with lots of opportunities for interaction and collaboration - very well suited for this kind of event.

The storyteller Tim Sheppard led a series of interactive sessions in which we were supposed to use various methods of storytelling to get particular points of a story across. The technologists among us were a bit reluctant, as this was not really "our thing". Instead, we would have preferred to do some software development, to set up a prototype, or to make a powerpoint vugraph. But this activity regarding storytelling was meant to prepare us for gaining self-confidence in presenting. Due to the wide variety of expertise and experience among the participants, some benefitted from this exercise, while others just participated for the fun of it.

In any case, Tim is a really nice guy, and he offered free coaching for the pitch presentation that we were to prepare.

On Tuesday was a "day out": each of us was sent to an institution, so as to see how "things are done" in the industry. Media experts were hereby sent to tecnology firms, and technologists were sent to media production. I attended a BBC Radio Manchester radio studio, where a live show was broadcast. Further, I attended a local TV evening news broadcast, as it was sent and controlled from the so-called "gallery" (ITV Granada News). In between these two events, I went shopping at the Maplin store in central Manchester.

On Wednesday, our groups began working together. I worked with journalist Garth Haley, who also had studied physics. He is very interested in technology, and we worked very well together. But before we coulc actually create our pitch, everybody was asked to think intensively about potential users of our technology. That is, we defined a few examplary user profiles, which were to be included into the pitch. I would have preferred to work on my presentation - lots of things to put into it, but the emphasis was set that the user should be in the centre. I thought, that this very specific targeting of concrete made-up users would be quite demeaning to our pitch clients - I remembered the saying "great minds talk about ideas, medium minds about events, small minds about people" (although that came from another context...). But of course, I understood that it was important to show that we understand the "customers", the clients for which we would make the product. And so we went along and developed two user profiles. The idea which I wanted to pitch, was an automatic recording system for automatic tagging, similar to what has been done in the past years in mobile / wearable computing (e.g. Thad Starner's remembrance agent), but with an emphasis on journalism. And so our two users would be a journalist as the prime user of such a system (for doing actual work with it) and the web consumer who could benefit from the results of such a system.

On Thursday, it became evident that the pitch would need to have more than just the target user profiles: costing, competition, needs and benefits etc. would have to be addressed, and so we finally worked on the Powerpoint files of the pitches. During a few sessions, each group gave examples of their pitches, and each of us gave comments and feedback. Garth and I went out to actually record some video footage of journalistic work, to be included in our pitch.

Friday then was the day when the pitches were presented to the three clients: from Sky News, Haymarket Media, and Johnston Press. We managed well and got positive feedback - and the option ot further talks later on.

Overall this event had been very interesting. It brought me in contact with people in the media area, a field where I see many possible applications of intelligent systems, for support and for novel ways of getting news and stories across.

If anyone is on Facebook, here is the group site for MELD.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My birthday

Yes, every year the same procedure: I am getting one year older. No wonder that I never can remember my age: it keeps changing every year.

This year I am not at home, but in Preston attending that MELD workshop. I had not told anyone today, but as we were sitting in that nice Italian restaurant Tino's in Preston, I somehow mentioned it as we talked about age and birthdays. As a consequence, I got a nice piece of cake as a desert, with a flaming rocket / torch, and the whole table (total of 16 people) sang "happy birthday" for me. Nice :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

MELD lab in Preston

A while ago I had attended a MELD evening in Leeds, which aimed at bringing together journalists, New Media, and technologists. As a result from that event, I submitted a brief proposal for a "pitch" which was accepted - and so I am now attending a one-week "sandbox" workshop at University of Central Lancashire in Preston, north of Liverpool.

It took 2 1/2 hours to drive there from Leeds, bypassing Manchester during the Monday mornign rush hour. I missed the exit from the M62 to the M61, as I had thought that the motorway would just continue up north... but instead the exit lane for M61 was on the left side, not continuing on the right.

Well, I arrived ok there.

The next days will be preparing a pitch for my project proposal: a piece of computer technology making journalistic work easier.

Friday, December 07, 2007

EU Review in Luxembourg

Once again I had the opportunity to participate in a review of an ongoing EU project: I was invited to Luxembourg for one day.

This time I flew KLM directly from Leeds, going through Amsterdam Schipol. This allowed me to take part in Leeds Met events and meetings on Wednesday, so I arrived in Luxembourg around 23:00. Then one full day of project presentations, I listened, made comments, remarks, notes.

In the evening I went to the Christmas market in the centre. It was raining, a miserable weather. Delicious dishes tempted me to go into one of the restaurants, but I finally decided to just stay at the market and eat some sausage and potatoe pancakes (with apple sauce) there.

Returned next day, arriving at Leeds in the afternoon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

C3KE Meeting at U. Huddersfield

Together with centenary PhD student Michael Ward I drove on Friday to the C3KE meeting at University of Huddersfield, where a talk was given by two researchers from University of Leeds about the interaction of dance and computing technology.

The next of these informal seminar meetings will take place at Leeds Metropolitan University, on 28. January 2008 - I will organise it and prepare a talk / presentation of our Centre for Creative Technology work.

Citroen to MOT

In the UK every car has to pass an annual MOT inspection for safety, similar to the TUV in Germany. So I try to arrange for a regular service inspection and a MOT test. Found the very closest garage near my residence, and decide to try to give them the car for a cehckup. However, as I drive to the location, there is a temporary deviation, and I have a hard time to find the garage. As a guy is walking by, I ask him for the location of the garage. Turns out he is the garage owner, and he offers to give ma a lift back home, then bring my car to the inspection. Very nice of him, I gladly accept this offer. But as I drive with him up the road towards my residence, some doubts occur: who is this guy anyway? I never saw him actually being in the garage. I have not signed any work order, nor can I be completely sure taht he actually is the owner of that garage, as that place looked quite abandoned and closed... so I thought I might turnout to be the most stupid victim of a scam, handing over my car key to a complete stranger.

As I expressed my doubts to him, he got upset and walked out of my car.

Very sorry to have offended him - but could he not understand my justified concerns? I really had no intention to be rude to him, but would I not need to have some kind of security?

In any case, it seemed then to be not possible to bring the car to his (?) garage, and so I drove it to the next-closest one. After a few necessary repairs, the Citroen passed the MOT instpection - but now it has starting problems (white smoke comes out of the exhaust at the first start - quite unusual for a Diesel), and there are still oil leaks when the car is parked. I will have to bring it again for a warranty repair...

Only trouble with those cars...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Leeds Met Sings: Mozart's Requiem

Afternoon concert at Leeds Met: the "Leeds Met Sings" quire performs Mozart's requiem in the Ghandi Hall. Staff members and invited guests can have free access to this concert, which also features a composition by composer Michael Nyman about our Great Run. I am not too excited about Michael's composition: the music sounds like a spoof on baroque music, making ridiculous fun of the forms and the musical language of this music style. But the performance of the Requiem is quite fabulous - congratulations to our singers!

Making good Use of the AA

As I return from the long train ride from Stansted Airport to Leeds, I walk up to my Smart car waiting in the parking structure at the airport. The left rear tire looks a bit low... and indeed, it is flat. As I drive out of the parking bay, it makes strange noises, and is really without any air. Smart vehicles are not so smart when it comes to a flat tire: there is no spare tire. Instead, there is supposed to be a compressor punp - but the previous owner of the car had obviously found other uses for it, as it was missing in the vehicle repair kit. So I have no other choice to call again the AA.

They arrive soon at the parking structure - waiting outside. So I have to drive down through the parking garage, 5 floors, with a flat tire. Down, the AA guy pumps up the tire with a compressor, and finds the small nail that punctured the wheel. The air stays ok, and he drives ahead of me to make sure I come home safely. The next day I go to a nearby KwikFit where they fix the tire: they remove the nail and close the hole - is supposedly safe to drive. Ok with me!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Flying with Ryanair

The trip to Graz was the first time I used Rynanair. They were the only airline which offered a non-stop flight from the UK to Graz, and I decided to give them a try. One of their main hubs in the UK is Stansted Airport, which is a bit inconvenient to reach from Leeds: first a train from Leeds to Peterborough, then a connecting train to Stansted Airport. The first train was one of the GNER trains to London - had a 240V power socket at the seat, so I could actually get some work done. But the 2nd train was more of a standard commuter train... and so I was just travelling without any opportunity to use my laptop computer. The overall train journey was almost 4 hours long... then checking in at the airport and flying off to Graz.

Waiting at the gate for the flight. Something was wrong: the arriving plane was late. But there was no announcement why it would be late... so everybody stood there in the queue like idiots, waiting to board the plane. Since Ryanair has no seat assignments, but only "paid priority" tickets, nobody dared to leave the queue to have a comfortable seat, out of fear to loose their space in the queue and later get a worse seat... if only they would tell how long the delay would be!

As I had checked in my luggage, it was 16.7 kg - slightly over the allowed limit of 15 kg. But they did not make me pay anything - just checked in my luggage without any problems.

On the way back, in Graz, the scales did not work at all - so I could have put all my stuff into the suitcase instead of carrying it with me in the hand luggage, to avoid the steep penalty fees for additional luggage...

Overall, the service was ok, and I arrives safely. But I wish there would have been more announcements instead of keeping the passengers in the dark about delays etc. And the long train ride from Leeds to Stansted certainly is a turn-off! So I doubt that I would take Ryanair again - unless they start flying from Leeds-Bradford airport to some reasonable destinations. Until then, I guess I will stay with good old KLM.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

USAB Conference, Graz

During the HCI conference this past summer in Beijing I had met Prof. Andreas Holzinger, who is in the joint supervision team of my PhD student Johannes Christian.
He had invited us to submit a paper to the symposium he would organise in Graz in November: USAB 07 - Usability & HCI for Medicine and Health Care. Together with my colleague Steve Wilkinson and Andreas Holzinger, Johannes and myself authored a kind of overview paper about the applications of Augmented Reality in the medical field.

The conference went for two days. Due to work commitments at Leeds Met I had to skip the first day in which several tutorials were held. I arrived at Graz in the evening, then attended the paper presentation sessions the next day. The keynote speech by Harold Thimbleby (Swanseas University) highlighted how bad user interface design of medical equipment can kill patients.

Our paper was presented in the session around 12 pm.

In the evening there was a reception at the Mayor of Graz.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Leeds BarCamp

On Saturday, 17.November, a quite unique event took place in the Leeds Met Old Broadcasting House, which was formerly the BBC Broadcasting House (but is now renovated and occupied by the NTI): the BarCamp Leeds. This event was an "un-conference", having a freely self-organising schedule in which everybody could sign into sessions and offer a presentation.

I had proposed to give a talk about my work and interests at Leeds Metropolitan University, around various topics in the realm of Creative Technology.

The self-organising principle worked to a certain degree: but as the presentation schedule was assembled with yellow post-it notes, which were placed onto a schedule wall into a matrix ot time and room arrangements, some of the notes fell down, and the schedule was to be rearranged a few times.

Most talks were about various Web 2.0 technologies and concepts from different perspectives - quite interesting!

Here are the pictures of the participants:

And here is a shot of the "back board" onto which everybody could draw something:

A search on Google for "barcampleeds" reveals many results where blogs and reports about this event are shown.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

London Impressions

Just before I visit William at Goldsmiths College, I use the time to stroll a bit through quarters of London where I had not yet been. After arriving at Kings Cross train station, I have to walk to the Thameslink station, from where a train crosses the river Thames. The train seems to drive in walking speed - and I regret that I did not get out at Blackfriars, from where I could have easily walked. I get out at the next station, London Bridge. Walk over the pedestrian bridge over the Thames. Into a busy business area. Pass St. Pauls Cathedral - looks much smaller than I had imagined. Then back over the Thames, into some old dock and market area. Then taking another train to New Cross, where Goldsmiths College is located.

New St. Pancras Train Station, next to Kings Cross Station.

Kings Cross Station, with the towers of St. Pancras Station in the background.

Near south bank of Thames, not far from London Bridge Station.

Tower Bridge.

Not far from St. Pauls Cathedral.

St. Pauls Cathedral.

North bank of the Thames.

Near London Bridge Train Station, evening.

Visit in London: Prof. William Latham

On Thursday, 15.November, I drove to London by train, to meet with my former colleague from Leeds Met, Prof. William Latham. In February this year he had moved to Goldsmith College, where he continues his work on computer graphics and organic art. I also had the opportunity to speak to his colleague, Prof. Frédéric Fol Leymarie, who has an interest in visualisation of music and audio.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Leeds Film Festival: 7.-18.Nov.

The Leeds International Film Festival takes place from 7.-18. November, in various venues across Leeds. I attended the opening film, Persepolis. Phantastic movie, very impressive look across cultural boundaries. Unfortunately, those who could actually get some enlightenment from this movie, are not in the audience...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

OpenCoffee in Leeds

On Tuesday, 6.November, there was again an OpenCoffee event in Leeds, where the "geeks of the town" could meet informally, chat about projects, and do some networking.

I attended this event for the 2nd time - interesting as always, to hear about some of the projects that are being done in the Web 2.0 communities and mobile phone companies.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Leeds Met in the News - Bullying

Just the evening when I returned from my travel to Krems and watched the 10pm BBC news, there was a report about Leeds Met in the local news "Look North": it mentioned that the teachers and college union UCU had complaints about bullying at our university. Apparently this story had already gone around for quite a while, as other sources showed. But I personally had not been aware of this.

In fact, since I had been at Leeds Met, I never had been subject to any bullying. On the contrary, I had a very warm reception, and the attitude towards and around me had been always very positive. And of course I myself have never contributed to any bullying culture. But there had been these changes at Leeds Met in the past few years, the redundancies, which for some members of staff were quite hard felt. Leeds Met has quite an ambitious vision, as stated in its vision statement and corporate plan. And the academic environment in general is under pressure: sinking student numbers, more new universities, and different expectations by students change the way in which academic goals can be pursuit. Not only at Leeds Met, but also at many other universities throughout the UK.

What I personal felt: the change of my job from being in a corporate environment in the US to the academic job at Leeds Met did not feel as a rapid change. In fact, it was a very smooth transition for me, as I found the same mechanisms of personnel procedures (performance review) and corporate image. Maybe this is a problem for many traditional academic members of staff, who feel that this transition into a more US-style corporate environment is against what they would like to see. But it is inevitable that the universities need to change, to cope with those challenges in the future.

So I can say with a good conscience: I have only positive experiences at Leeds Met, and I will try to contribute further to a positive environment at our university.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Travel back

Friday morning I leave Krems, driving through the wonderful Dabube valley up towards Melk. Very pleasant autumn landscape, but I have to time to stop to take pictures: I want to have a brief look at the Linz Ars Electronica Center where a few interactive exhibits of electronic art are shown. I arrive in Linz at 11:30, then spend almost 1 hour at the museum, trying out various installations. There is also one installation using the AR-Toolkit for visual tracking.

I continue around 12:30 and arrive in time at 16:00 at the airport Munich, where my flights back to Amsterdam and then further to Leeds are without any problems.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dissertantenseminar in Krems

Our distance-PhD students in Krems have a seminar once in a while, which is organised by the Danube-University Krems (DUK). I was invited to attend, to listen to invited lectures by Prof. Maurer and Prof. Goetschl, and to help in the coordination of the collaboration between our two universities. I also used the opportunity for individual supervision talks with those students for which I am in the supervisory team, and I gave myself a talk about the activities of our "Centre for Creative Technology".

Monday, October 29, 2007

Another Reunion

This year there seem to be many reunions: First the high-school reunion in July, then the UniBwM-colleage reunion. And now a personal reunion, with a friend whom I knew since 28 years but had not seen in 25 years. I use the time to make a detour to Innsbruck, before continuing to the actual destination of my travel.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

VaMP in Deutschem Museum

At our UniBwM reunion I heard that the vehicle which we had been working on, "Versuchsfahrzeug fuer Autonome Mobilitaet - Passenger" (VaMP), was now an exhibit in the technology museum "Deutsches Museum" in Munich. A new hall had been opened, devoted to all kinds of traffic artefacts, with trains and cars. And VaMP was there. A strange feeling, to see that piece of technology with which I had gotten my PhD 11 years ago, now in a public exhibition. I had been driving with in in 1994 around the Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle, and I had driven it (together with my colleague Markus Maurer) to Denmark in 1995, on our often referred trip form Munich to Odense, where the car drove about 95% of the distance only controlled by its camera vision system.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some Sightseeing

The weather in Munich is grey and cold, but at least it does not rain. So I decide to drive a bit south to the Alps. Tegernsee, Sylvensteinsee.

In the evening, a concert in the Gasteig. When living in Munich, we had often gone - I had a student ID, and often got those cheap tickets for excellent performances. Somehow after a few years we had stopped going to those concerts, so now it was for more than 13 years that I was once again at the Gasteig. The Munich Philharmonic played a Strauss-only program (Richard): Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, and Also Sprach Zarathustra. Quite heavy stuff. In my opinion, the brass was overall too lound and overshadowed the strings. Could have had a few more players in the violin sections. As an Encore they played Wagner's Vorspiel to the Meistersinger of Nuremberg. An all-German program, quite teutonic.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reunion with Former Colleagues from UniBwM

Friday night a pleasant reunion had been scheduled: after 11 years I would see again some of my former colleagues from UniBwM where I had worked on the autonomous vehicle and where I got my PhD degree. Prof. Dickmanns had organised this meeting on the university campus. As I was driving towards it, I noticed that many of the roads had changed. Roundabouts everywhere, a new bypass road. And the entrance road to the campus too had somewhat been moved. It was already dark, but I found my way ok.

Nice to meet the former colleagues - there was a lot to tell! They work now in a variety of positions, as project managers, and some as professors.

Travelling Again

Again travelling. On Thursday I work in the morning at the Uni, then take a taxi to the airport. Leave the Smart on campus, after letting security know about it. The flights go well. First to Amsterdam, then further on to Munich. The flight to Munich has a problem: as the bus approaches the plane on the Schiphol airfield, it stops but does not let any passengers out. At the plane, a few maintenance people keep walking up and down the stairs. After about 10 min an announcement that this plane has a problem with a crew seat, and so it cannot take off. We drive back to the terminal, until another plane is found. With one hour delay we take off, and arrive in Munich.

I had a rental car reservation from Avis. As I walk up to the counter of Avis at the Airport Munich, the counter is closed. All other counters appear to be open, just the Avis counter is closed. I look at my reservation voucher: yes, it states there that the counter only is open from 7:00-23:00. I might have made it, had I arrived earlier. But now it is shortly after midnight. I just tried to call Avis on my mobile phone, when a cleaning woman tells me that the Europcar counter would take the responsibilities for Avis after closing hours. And indeed, the friendly chap from Europcar has my reservation. I was pleasantly surprised: had only reserved a Economy car (VW Polo), but got a Opel Astra Stationwagon, 1.6l, with Navigationsystem. Nice treat.

Now just driving to the hotel in a Southern suburb of Munich. At 1am I arrive at the hotel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Member of "the Fleet"

Yesterday, my vehicle fleet got extended by a new member: a 2002 "smart car". Finally, I can express my environmental conscience with an adequate vehicle, to compensate for my CO-2 sins (frequent flying, huge 1970s gas guzzlers). And it is a convertible, suitable for the next summer. It was a sale from a private owner. The vehicle is in very good condition, and I hope to have now a trouble-free and economical commute to work everyday.

The Suzuki will be sold - it recently failed the annual MOT test, and it is not feasible to get it fixed. I placed a free ad on Craigslist and got already 3 inquiries. Whoever pays first, will get the car...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dinner at Meg Soosay's Home

Last year, in summer 2006, Meg Soosay had organised a charity dinner. This year she again organised one. Well, not one, but 10 so far - each member of staff was invited, and since the dinner table sits only about 10 people, she did repeat the dinner several times, with different guests each time. This Monday my schedule finally allowed me to attend. She cooked nice food from her home in Malaysia - excellent!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Talk about the Leeds Town Hall Organ

Saturday morning, from 9:30 - 11:00, organist Simon Lindley (a former member of staff at Leeds MEt) gave a 1 1/2 hour overview on the history and capabilities of the Leeds Town Hall organ. He played a few pieces, highlighting the sound of the more than 6000 pipes. He also provided a wealth of information about the history of Leeds, the Town Hall, and Leeds in general.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I want a "good" car...

Well, since I have only two car wrecks, I would finally like to know what it is to own a "good" car, one that is not going to be dumped at the scrap yard. The Citroen is very old and worn, but it runs well and seems to be safe; so I will invest and keep it going for a little while. The Suzuki was at the MOT station a few weeks ago - and failed grandiously many items. So I will have to scrap it, or sell it for parts. Repairing it is not an option, as the repair would be way too expensive. Some welding would have to be done.

So I am looking now for a "nice" car, reliable and economically to run. I have in mind something quite specific...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Car Towing into Garage

Next day, Thursday, I arrange for a garage, get a quote over the phone. Possibly the steering pump will have to be replaced... could be expensive. The AA comes shortly before noon. Since the suspension is driven by the hydraulics, the car is no longer suspended... and actually I am not supposed to drive it, as the seals of the suspension might suffer. But I have no other choice... the car needs to be towed, and is being brought to the shop.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Car Breakdown

On my way home from work, up the steep hill from the Kirkstall Valley, I suddenly hear a rattling noise from the engine compartment of the Citroen Xantia. I stop, open the hood, and see that the auxilliary belt seems to be shredded. Unfortunately I do not have any tools to remove the parts from the belt, which seem to create the noise when the engine us running, as they beat against the walls in the motor compartment. I call the emergency service AA, who after about 30 min arrive at the scene. The guy removes the debris, then we try again to run the vehicle. Works ok for 200 m, but then the noise starts again. He suggests to cut the belt and drive home without it; since all the garage shops are closed now, we cannot go to any, and he would come next day to pick up the car and bring it to a garage.

So I drive slowly, as the engine still works. But I do not have power steering anymore, as the powersteering pump is now disabled. So steering is a bit harder than usual. And - I realise that I also do not much braking power! Now this seems to be a bit dangerous... driving downhill, without much brake force. The AA van drives behind me, ready to help when necessary. Also the generator is of course disabled, I am only running on battery. Judiciously I press the brake pedal when approaching a roundabout; works fine. Then up the next hill, at home.

From my neighbor Clive I get a recommendation for a nearby shop.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NTI Launch Event

The Leeds Met New Technology Institute (NTI) has already been operating for a while in the Old Broadcasting House, but on Tuesday evening an official launch event was held at this venue, with guests from local industry.

Monday, October 15, 2007

MELD event

MELD is an organisation with the goal to bring together journalists and new media. On this Monday, 15.10., MELD officially launched in Leeds with an event in the Boutique Bar in Hirst Yard, not far from the train line and the canal.

I am rarely in this area; Hirst Yard seems to be a relict of the "old Leeds", a narrow urban backyard. Glad that such areas still exist. The Boutique bar seems to be one of those "In" places in Leeds. On the top floor is where the event takes place. Approx. 20-30 people are there. We talk about possible projects, and I propose my ideas re. intelligent automated computing and journalistic story telling.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Concert in Leeds Town Hall

Another great concert in the Leeds Town Hall: the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under conductor Stephane Deneve played "Ma Mere L'Oye" by Maurice Ravel, the 2nd Violin Concerto by Sergej Prokoffiev, and the "Symphonic Dances" by Sergej Rachmaninov. The conductor gave a few introductory remarks about the "dream program" tonight.

When taking a few pictures, the usher came and told me that I must not shoot any pictures... well, of course I complied, but nevertheless I am posting here the picture I took, as my contribution to civil disobedience. :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Leeds Light Night 2007

Since 2005, the "Leeds Light Night" is a special event in Leeds, transforming the inner city into a cultural arena with many interesting events. A great event for a night out! Finally there are not only drunken yobs in the streets, but also "normal" people, enjoying the relatively mild (no rain!) evening weather.

Medieval songs in one of the churches of Leeds.

Marquee down at Headingley Campus

The white set of marquee tents which had been up on the Acre at the Headingley campus since the graduation activities in July, now are being taken down. Underneath is just brown soil now, but activities are on the way to re-green the blank area.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Matthias Kuentzel at Leeds Uni

After the controversy of his scheduled talk back in March 2007 which was cancelled due to "security concerns", Matthias Kuentzel again came to Leeds to give a talk, and this time it was not cancelled. The title of the talk held this Wednesday, october 10, was Hitler's legacy: Islamic antisemitism in the Middle East. The auditorium was filled to about 1/3; interesting that there was not so much interest, after all that controversy. Police guarded the entrance, but kept a low profile in typical British cool manner.

The talk was indeed very interesting, and it highlighted a chapter that is not discussed very much in the mainstream discussions: the link between radical Islam and Fascism, together with the historic connections between the two. Naturally, Mr. Kuentzel clearly distinguished between the "general Islam" and the specific groups involved in these links. After the one hour talk, there were a few questions, which were answered by the presenter. Strangely, the questions were "collected" in a set of 4-5 by the organisers, then Mr. Kuentzel answered them as a batch. One issue came across in those questions and discussions reflecting the latest events in the UK re. boycott propositions of Israel by several UK institutions: the ambivalent position of "the political left" towards Israel. One audience members clearly expressed an anti-leftist stand, while Mr. Kuentzel mentioned that his political home was "the Left", but that he began to disagree when people labeled one kind of assassination as fascistic while labeling thge same type pf assassination as "freedom fight", just depending on who the perpertators were and against whom their murder was directed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Autumn Afternoon

Temple Newsam is an 18th century estate right at the south-eastern city border of Leeds, with a nice park. This Sunday there are quite a few people out there, strolling around and enjoying the mild autumn weather.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday Night: Concert

The Leeds International Concert Season had started a few weeks ago, and I decided that this year I would again go to concerts in the Leeds Town Hall, as I had done during my first year here in Leeds. This Saturday, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio under Vladimir Fedoseyev played Elgar's Serenade for Strings (in my view a pleasant but rather predictable piece), Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #2 (one of the great "concert war horses"), and Rimsky-Korsakov's Shererazade (in my opinion the most impressive of the 3 works - with its colorful instrumentation and its defiance of stricl classical form). I especially admire about Rimsky-Korsakov (and for that matter Borodin) that he was basically an amateur, not trained in composition and music. This is phantastic and gives some hope to amateur composers everywhere and through the ages.

After the concert, it is quite amazing to see the Leeds night life in the streets on Saturday night. Lots of young people stroll around, most of them probbaly students, a few of them drunk, but most (still) more or less dry. Most of them "glamed up" for the night, forming lines outside of bars and clubs. It seems that the roads are more busy now around midnight than they are during the day.

Saturday MSc Engineering

I knew that I would have to teach 3 Saturdays this semester, to teach the module "Modelling and Simulation" in the part-time MSc Engineering course. In the last academic year, I alrady had done a Saturday module, "Image Processing", together with Alan Crispin, so I knew the students. I was aware that in a few weeks I would have to spend a total of 3 Saturdays in these tutorial. But I was very surprised to learn right after my return that the first lecture would already be given this Saturday! Somehow I had missed the "introduction" part of this module... so now I was in the situation of quickly having to prepare something. Fortunately this Saturday tutorial would only be half a day long, as this was just a lecture about introduction. So I prepared a set of vugraphs on matric algebra, differential equations, and dynamic systems.

Saturday morning, 9:00, the group assembled, and I gave my presentation. Went well, I think. The next Saturday tutorial will be on 3.November - and then it will be a full day, in the PC lab, with everybody in the class working on a computer, using Matlab and Simulink.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A few more days in Germany

After the ACM Multimedia conference was over, I had one more day in Southern Bavaria. Once again a short trip to the Alps, where the past days of wet weather had covered the mountain tops with a bit of snow. The sun was shining again, and I had another opportunity to shoot a few nice landscape pictures. On the way back north, I took the Romantic Road, which passes through old towns where the time seemed to have stopped. Donauwoerth, Harburg, Wemding, Noerdlingen, Dinkelsbuehl, Feuchtwangen, Rothenburg and many other towns are on this road. So I take it easy, drive slowly, not on the Autobahn, but on the Bundesstrasse.

Two more days with the family, I visit my brother. Then back "home" to Leeds. Again there is the 4 h drive up north to Duesseldorf, where the flight to Leeds leaves.

Friday, September 28, 2007

ACM Multimedia Conference in Augsburg

For the past days I have been at the ACM Multimedia Conference in Augsburg, Germany. A very interesting event, with a few keynote papers, and several parallel sessions, held at the Augsburg University. Much emphasis has been on automated multimedia annotation. Friday were a few workshops, devoted to related topics. An interesting event - I will bring back a DVD with the proceedings and a few new contacts.

One of the people I met there, works actually not far from me in the UK. I seem to meet him always quite far away from the UK, in Brussels, in Tokyo, but never in Northern England. Well, we agreed to meet sometime soon!

I also met a former intern who was at RSC a few years ago: Cyril Concolato from France.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Southern Bavaria

A great "Indian Summer" weather has been over Central Europe for a while, with warm temperatures (up to 25 C = 75F) and blue sky. Excellent weather to enjoy the sights of Southern Bavaria. Driving towards south, the Bavarian Alps appear on the horizon,
giving a gorgeous frame to the hilly meadows covered in intensly green grass. Lakes, mountains, architecture are very pleasing to the eye. Many walks are possible, around lakes, up to hills. And everywhere there is a "Gasthaus" to be found, with hearty local food at excellent quality but inexpensive prices. Good that I took one additional day of vacation, to enjoy this wonderful area. Yes, I could not avoid ending up near the tourist trap "Neuschwanstein Castle"... but the town of Fuessen which is nearby, is actually at least as spectacular, with its historic houses and the large castle in the centre. Much more historic (from medieval times) than the "modern" Neuschwanstein castle (from the mid 19th century).

Pictures from the excursions into Southern Bavaria are available in a Flickr set.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dorinth Hotel, Augsburg

After a 3h travel on the Autobahn on Saturday, I arrive in Augsburg. Staying at the Dorint Hotel, a skyscraper building near the city center. Quite 70-ish in its architecture, built at the time of the 1972 Olympics. The inside architecture too has survived the times, and is a quite homogeneous display of the 1970s style, with its clear modernism and elegant style. The hotel rooms are furnished very elegantly and modern, giving a very classy yet comfortable feel. Huge windows let lots of light in from the balcony. The view of my room goes towards north, onto a wooded park area. Internet connectivity is a bit strange: they have an ISDN phone / internet line, but who has a mobile ISDN modem? No ethernet, just wireless through Vodaphone (I may post a summary of the experiences with that service soon).

Breakfast buffet is great, with a large selection of many items.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Travel to Germany

During the day, strong rain showers were once again pounding down in the Northern England region. I had taken the day off, to prepare for travel. The rain stopped in the afternoon, and even the sun came out a bit.

As I took a few pictures of the Leeds Bradford airport, a parking attendant approached me, telling me that it is forbidden to take pictures. Well, I stopped, but then I wondered where the sign for this was - I did not see any sign anywhere which told that one cannot take pictures of the airport buildings. And even if there would be signs: how legitimate are they anyway? If they would be consequence, they would have to be "Do not look at this building". Because with each look and view, I actually take an image: stored in my brain. Now if that is allowed, then logically it must be allowed to take a picture with a camera too. Whatever one can see, one is allowed to take a picture of. And whatever one hears, one is allowed to record and listen to it later. The only limitation: it may be forbidden to pass these recordings on to others. I would like to fight for this interpretation of the right to record anything in court. It is a basic human right to memorise things, and this memorising includes storing it on an external version of the brain. (Here is another thought for an ethical reflection).

And here are a few pictures that I shot before being told to stop. Watch them at your own risk, as it seems to be forbidden to look at the airport and memorise resp. capture images of it!




The flight to Duesseldorf took off one hour late, but due to back winds it arrived just 20 minutes after the scheduled arrival.

Duesseldorf is actually not very suitable for my travel, as I needed to be in Southern Germany, not in Northern Germany. But the only other direct flight from Leeds to Germany would go to Hamburg - even further away from where I needed to be. And so I rented a car and drove south through the night on the A3. Not much traffic, the ride was smooth. I arrived at 1:00 am at my family's home near Wuerzburg.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Preparing the "Performance Review"

Every year, each professional has to undergo a performance review, for assessing the individual performance in the job, for the purpose of promotion and career advancement. This has been so in my job at Rockwell Scientific (RSC) in the US, which was a privately owned company. And it is so here at Leeds Met. This review determines also the raises of salary... therefore it is quite important to have a good review.

A interesting aspect, to which I still am not completely used, is that the reviewed person has to write the review himself... so one has to be very positive about one's own work. The next higher manager will then review what was written, and either approve or disapprove. This is in fact not too bad, as usually the manager is not aware about all the things that the reviewee has done. Well, on Thursday I took the time to write and submit my performance review...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Ethics Debate (cont.)

As a response to my "dreadful reflection" (according to Prof. Simon Robinson, but said with a wink), several people replied, and their replies had been posted last week one by one, everyday a different one, breaking the usual pattern of one single weekly reflection (see on the archive in the right-hand column of the Ethical Reflections page. And this week, I was given the opportunity to post my reply. I hope I hit the right tone and could convey my opinion about this issue of ethics in research, resp. ethics vs. research. The 200 words limit for these reflections is quite limiting when trying to express thoughts in their full clarity... but here in the UK everybody seems to love those word count restrictions - they have almost developed into an art form and are used in all kinds of writings, in proposals, summaries, essays. Oh well...

Students from Krems at Leeds Met

Monday through Wednesday we had visitors from Austria: a group of distance PhD students from the Danube University Krems visited us at Leeds Met. Since 2005, the partnership between Danube University and Leeds Met has resulted in a number of PhD projects, supervised by Leeds Met and managed by Danube University. I myself am currently involved in the supervision of 5 PhD students from the Danube University, and they are doing a great job in their projects.

Now it was the 3rd time that a group of students started in this program, and their visit at Leeds Met served to give them the opportunity to present their project ideas to their potential supervisors, discuss the handling of the program, and get familiar with Leeds Met. Based on the topics, I will probably be involved in 3 of their PhD projects.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


From Monday to Wednesday, Leeds Met organised a series of workshops for PhD student supervisors. These workshops are leading to the qualification of being a Director of Studies (DoS) - without having participated in them, no supervisor can be a DoS. I only could take part in the workshops Monday afternoon and Tuesday - Wednesday another event prevented me from attending.

Quite useful discussions during these workshops, about what makes a supervisor good, about what students expect, about ethics.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday: Yorkshire

A strong wind blows from the West on Sunday. It is quite sunny, a lot of traffic flows through Headingley, as there is an important game happening at the Headingley Stadium. Everywhere are now crowds of new student arrivals, as the semester at Leeds Uni and at Leeds Metropolitan begins. A relaxed party-atmosphere is in the air, the bright September sun shining down on the large groups of pedestrians moving towards the stadium.

Time to get out into the country side, to a short trip to the Great Almscliff Crag where I already had been 2 weeks ago. This time the wind is even stronger, it is hard to stand up.

A helicopter lands: there had been an accident at the rock climbing area, someone had gotten hurt and needs to be transported away.

The strong west wind finally brought the rain clouds over the Pennines, the sun disappears, and a rain shower comes down. Time to get back into the car and head back home. When passing Kirkstall Abbey in the darkness, there is actually something going on: an orchestral concert! I recognize Tchaikovsky's "1812". The abbey is illuminated in various colors, purple, blue, red. The guarding attendant mentiones that there is supposed to be some fire works. But due to some technical defect, however, the firework does not start.

Weekend is over, now preparing for a 3-day workshop on research supervision. This is required to be able to formally become a Director of Studies.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weekend: North York Moor

Again weekend, and the bright autumn sun is just too tempting... so I decide to use the nice weather to do a few excursions, for getting more pictures for my collection. On Saturday I head north, towards North York Moor. There is a traffic jam north of York, so I deviate from the main road A64 and drive on small secondary roads. Incidentally I come through the Howard Castle Park, a grandious noble house. The road goes very straight, then through a pseudo-medioval part of a wall with a gate, still straight up a hill where there is another gate with a pyramid-like roof. From there, the road passes a lake, close to which Castle Howard is located.

A stop at the pub "Royal Oak" in Malton: for 5 pound one gets a very nice lunch meal - I take a beef burger with chips (fries) and salad.

The journey goes further north, passing through Pickering, then up the slopes of the North York Moor. A stop at the Hole of Horkum is always rewarding: the grandious view down in the valley is spectacular. The heather which covers the ground on the top of the moor is mostly no longer blooming, the intense purple has been replaced with a reddish-brown. But there are a few single blooms here and there, telling what a marvelous sight this must have been a few weeks ago.

I cannot resist to make a detour to the town of Goathland, where the train station of the North York Moor Railway is, which also was used in the first Harry Potter movie. At this station, the two opposing trains meet each other and let each other pass, as the track in general is a single track. And at 17:10 the two trains arrive from the two directions, wait shortly, then depart.

There is still a little time to visit briefly Whitby, as the sun is setting down. Parking in the town is filled, so I park up the hill near the abbey. The wind is strong, and there are high waves at the sea, well visible even from the top of the cliff. A short stroll down into the town, a brief 25 min tour with the last tourist boat (costs just 2 pound), and then walking back up to the car.

I return wtih a nice new set of pictures, accessible on my Flickr site.

Friday, September 14, 2007

SDF: Conclusion

The 2007 Staff Development Festival concluded with an event at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium. Before that, Janet Finlay and myself had hosted a session on "Innovation through Technology", where a few of our staff members showed some "interesting" interaction technology: Duncan Folley demonstrated the motion capture system, Ben Dalton presented the work on the Leeds Millenium Square Big Screen, and Tony Renshaw, Richard Stevens, and Dave Raybould demonstrated the eye tracking system.

After that, we walked to the stadium, which is about 20 min away from the campus. The Leeds Met chorus performed a few works, there were fireworks, gymnastics, and a tribute to Robbie Williams. I skipped the Rugby game in the evening, because more work at home was waiting for me, as I continued the small home renovation projects.

SDF: Research Days

Thursday and Friday of the Leeds Met Staff Development Festival (SDF) were devoted to research. Yesterday I attended a very interesting "Research Conversation" by our own Ben Dalton (from our faculty Innovation North), which followed the keynote talk by John Grimshaw from SusTrans, an organisation devoted to promote sustainable transport modes (such as walking and bicycling). There were more workshops, but I had to skip them due to preparations of a research proposal.

Today in the morning I continued the work on this proposal, which is due in a few weeks... not much time left.

In 20 minutes I will host my own session at this Research Day 2, which I organised with my colleagues Prof. Janet Finlay and Prof. Colin Pattinson: "Innovation through Technology". There will be motion capture, eye tracking, and big screen interaction.

And then there will be the finale at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium. I already parked the car there, since there are not many parking spots. And in the evening, I plan to attend a Rugby Game at the stadium!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Monday the last work on the paper. Two more authors have agreed to contribute, and the paper has developed nicely. I write intro, technology section, conclusions. Is a bit disconnected, but is worth to submit for review to the workshop organisers. Let's see if it gets accepted.

Otherwise, a few meetings at work. Individual Performance Review. Meeting re. the "Virtual Runner" project - it progresses nicely, the students working on it are very keen and interested.

Wednesday is the eGov workshop, of which I am actually a chair. But already a fw months ago I had indicated that I would only be able to contribute a small amount of work. At the same time there is a 3 hour meeting for the presentations of MSc students in Creative Technology. They are doing quite some fabulous work. I think this should be included in the website of our Centre for Creative Technology.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


On Saturday, a few things were to do in the house. The little entry hall has a problem with condensation, so I put a sealer on the wall and painted later with an anti-condensation paint. That should help.

A paper submission is due by Saturday evening... I am scratching my head about what to write. Finally I have a title and an abstract ready; the remaining 4-8 pages will then have to be written later. One of my students is involved as a co-author, and a segment form his work will be included.

The weather on Saturday is nice; a pity to waste it staying indoors. So on Sunday I have to go out. A short tour through North Yorkshire, to known sites in Ripley, Ripon, Fountains Abbey, Sutton Bank.

After I am back, it is time again to work on the paper.