Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The "Trevor Baylis Break-Out Room"

Today we had an honorable guest at Leeds Met: the inventor Trevor Baylis, OBE, joined a celebration event in the "Old Broadcasting House". Trevor's passion is in ensuring that inventors get recognition - and appropriate protection of their intellectual property. A room in this Old Broadcasting House was named in his honour, to provide a sanctuary for trusted conversations about patentable ideas. He gave a speech in which he enthusiastically celebrated the profession of an inventor - fabulous his imitation of a nerdy inventor type who for some reason had a German accent... (remember Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove?)

This event was for me the first opportunity to visit the new Old Broadcasting House, a building formerly housing the BBC. Now freshly renovated, it hosts the Leeds Met New Technology Institute (NTI), an Innovation Showcase, the Teaching and Learning Excellence Centre, and several seminar rooms. A great venue!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Torrential Rain

The weather forecast looked bleak - more rain coming. And it came today. Lots of flooding in East Yorkshire. 900 people trapped at their work places in Sheffield.
A man dies due to the flood.

Here in Leeds, some parts of the areas near the docks in the vicinity of the city centre (south of the train station) are flooded. Fortunately, our cottage is at the side of a hill, where the water can flow down... but there is some water seeping through the old walls.

This June had the most rainfall since they kept metreorological records.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Car Problem

Saturday late afternoon, getting into the Ford Granada after a short hike in Harewood. The weather had briefly shown its pleasant side - the rain had stopped on Saturday afteroon, and sun came out on a cloudy sky.

As I turn into the main road between Harrogate and Leeds, I notice a slight smell of burnt plastic. I do not see any smoke outside. Sometimes people burn here weeds or agricultural waste, but I do not see where the fire could be. I drive on, the smell gets stronger. Then I see from the car ventilation light smoke coming into the car passenger compartment.

Immediately I stop the car at the side, turn the engine off, take the ingition key out. Must be a short circuit somewhere. When I open the hood and remove the cover of the fuse box, I see the culprit: smoke comes from one of the relais. Not much that I can do - I start the engine again, and it seems to run fine. All electrical devices seem to work ok, at least the ones I need for driving. So I continue to drive home, window open to let the burnt smell go out. It still seems to create those fumes, but I do not see any smoke coming anymore. Made it home safely.

Then I removed the faulty relais: it was the one for the interval wishes/wiper. The bottom is completely melted, I had a hard time getting it out of its socket. Not sure if I can just plug in a replacement... so for now I drive without interval wiper. That had been not working anywaw since I bought the car, so nothing is lost.

I think it is time to consider getting a new car, before something else breaks.

Anyone wants to buy a 1993 Ford Granada with a few issues? I offer it for just
250 Pounds (ono = or nearest offer).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Technology-Enhanced Learning

Today was a one-day workshop held at the Carnegie Stand, organised by our Pro-Vice Chancellor for Assessment, Learning, and Teaching, Sally Brown. I somehow had missed this event - and yesterday evening Sally invited me to participate. I was only able to attend in the morning, because I again had a meeting this afternoon that had been previously scheduled.

We discussed the use of online learning and the issues associated with it. It emerged that the current implementations are still quite away from the ideal solution, where students can use these online "eLearning" systems for individual learning - but we are on the way. Leeds Met has invested significantly into WebCT, and will continue to use this system.

One issue that was brought up was that students nowadays do not always accept the "institutional" online systems provided by the university (email, discussion boards) - and rather use forums and discussion boards outside of the university. This just has to be accepted - one cannot "force" students to use a specific system, as they have a great choice of where they want to participate. The solution might be to link to these other resources and to provide an attractive and easy to use portal. There may still be some work to do on our side...
Graffiti Board with questions and issues.

UCU Boycott of Israel Academics

I should read more often the Times Higher Education Supplement which is a very informative source for news about UK education issues. When browsing today, I found that I had been quoted in an article that appeared on Friday last week: the article mentioned the reflection I had put on the Leeds Met website, and quoted my statement that I would offer to establish links with Israeli and Palestinian academics and institutions "in the belief that collaboration between the two parties can contribute more towards mutual understanding and lasting peace than any ill-conceived boycott."


I found out that this quote also has made it into another online story: IMRA (Independent Media Review Analysis)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Inaugural Lecture of Prof. Sue Clegg

Thursday evening was again one of these inaugural lectures at Leeds Met, which provide the frame for the academic staff to come together, listen to an inspiring and thought-stimulating talk, discuss academic issues, and have a bite at the delicious buffet povided by Leeds Met Catering. Prof. Sue Clegg is working on Research into Higher Education, a topic at the very core of a university. In addition to the inaugural lecture, she also had organised a one-day conference on Monday 18.June, to launch her Centre of Research into Higher Education. I only could attend at the morning, because of other commitments and meetings.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Missed opportunity: Silver Well Cottage (Ilkley)

The Silver Well Cottage, Ilkley Moor.

A few months ago, on a short hike along the Ilkley Moor, we saw a house, with boarded up windows, and partially unvocered roof. Located above Ilkley, with a drive access way, a large ground around it, and a spectacular view above the Wharfedale, I thought this would be a great buy, with some work to fix it up. But there was not any "For Sale" sign on it, nor did I know the name or address of this place. As we walked this past weekend again there, I noticed on the map that this building actually has a name: "Silver Well Cottage". Not to be confused with the "Silver Well Baths" which are just about one mile east.

How was I surprised to see tonight in the BBC local news "Look North" this cottage being announced as being sold today: an aution had taken place, and the selling price was 375,000 pounds. A bit expensive for my own wallet... so I would not have bid for it. But I probably would have shelled out about 200k pounds - provided I would have found a decent mortgage.

Article in Ilkley Gazette, 14. June 2007
Advertisement of the Silver Well Cottage Sale

Being an External Examiner

It is summer now (well, almost), the semester is over, students are on vacation, and the final grades had been collected by lecturers and other members of staff. Now it is the time of the examination boards. For each module / course, meetings are organised, in which each student's marks are "approved" and certified. Usually, there are also external examiners from other universities, to make sure that everything is done fair and according to standards.

On Monday, I got an email that urgently an external examiner is needed - and I agreed to jump in, as I had nothing on my schedule for this Wednesday morning. And so I turned up at an (unnamed - for confidentiality reasons) educational institution. This was not my subject at all, but this did not matter, as I would have just to observe the process of the approval of the marks. I parked the car and went into the building. Nobody at the reception. I just know the room number, so I start walking along the hallway. I had not printed out the email with all the contact information, since I thought that knowing the room number would be sufficient. But as I walk along the corridors, coming closer to where the room should be, there is a sudden jump in numbers, beyond the room where I need to go. What to do now? I seem to look lost, and as a woman walks by, she asks me where I need to go. I state the room number, and she looks puzzled. Together we look along the corridors, and that room does not seem to exist. Another woman comes along, and she tells me "just try this one here which does not have a number at the door ...". And right, this was the room. One person already was there inside, and we wait until the rest of the exam board arrives. Then, for a 1/2 hours, the chairman goes through each student record and compares the listed marks with the ones filed by the actuat tutors who are also present. Then the marks get certified, and my duty is done.

Back to work at Leeds Met.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lots of rain lately...

View from my office on Caedmon Hall.

The month of April has been extrodinarily warm and sunny. But May and now June have been much wetter, with many days of rainfall and generally cool temperatures. Last week was basically constant rain, and on the night from Thursday to Friday there was such a downpour that the whole Yorkshire region suffered a lot of flooding. Many houses had their cellars under water, and people said that they had not seen such rain in the last 30 years, or even since the 1950s. This means there was some rain like this already at that time in the past...

Only on Sunday there was some sun which we used for a short hike in Ilkley Moor. Yesterday night was some thunder and flashes of lightning, something that is relatively rare here up north - at least during the last year I had not seen many thunderstorms here in Leeds.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Leeds Met Honorary Doctorate

A very "mysterious" word-of-mouth message was passed on to members of staff at Leeds Met on Thursday morning: there would be a meeting in the James Graham Building at noon, with an event and important announcements. Nobody who told me about this, knew what the exact nature of that event would be - we suspected that it would be related to Leeds Met getting the "Greenest Uni of UK" award, which just had made the news on our website.

As we went to the James Graham Building, there was first a kind of buffet dinner in the Acre room. Then we were ushered into the "Great Hall". This is a central piece of the James Graham Building - it had been used as a part of the library during the past years, with a "false ceiling", so that none of its former glory could be seen. Now it has been renovated, and this was the first time for me to be in that hall. High ceiling, large windows, quite a festive and representative facility for Leeds Met! Unfortunately I had not taken my camera with me... so I have no pictures from it.

The event turned out to be a Honorary Award ceremony for India's Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel who received a Honorary Doctorate of business administration - the secrecy of this award probably had to do with security concerns. Amazing, what the event organisers were able to pull out on such a short notice! The Black Dyke band provided the musical frame, the senior administration was in official Uni gowns. A bit more on the story is on the Leeds Met website.

This event is in conjunction with the "Bollywood Oscars": in the next days, Leeds is this year the venue for the annual award ceremony of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA). In the past days, Bollywood celebrities have flown into Yorkshire, and there has been quite a media buzz.

And of course, Leeds Met is prominently involved in this, as the official education partner of IIFA and Wizcraft, the Indian event organiser.

Leeds Met is Greenest Uni in the UK!

Again there is some positive news to report: Leeds Met has been named the "Most Environmentally Friendly University in the UK" by "People and Planet" - see the statement on the Leed Met website and the original league table. Quite a nice achievement - congratulations, Leeds Met!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Software for Geo-Tagging

The past few weeks I have stopped uploading pictures to Flickr, because I wanted to geo-tag them before the upload. The tools on Flick for Geotagging are a bit lame: the map takes forever to load, and the whole interaction process seems to be very slow.

Therefore, I have written a software for geo-tagging JPEG pictures: the web page with a download link is on my personal site. You are very welcome to download it and test it. It requires you to install the .NET framework. The software uses Google Maps to do the Geo-Tagging. It also allows to edit a number of other tags.

One feature which I have not seen anywere yet is the possibility to indicate the object location, in addition to the camera location. A triangle, overlaid onto the map, indicates the viewing angle and coverage of the image.

There are plenty of things that can be added into the software: integration of Google Earth / Microsoft Virtual Earth for 3D interaction, and reading of GPS log files for more or less automatic geo-tagging. If I have time, I will work on these topics.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Again an Ethics Reflection...

Once again I have let myself getting carried away - and getting involved in a highly controversial topic. But last week's news about the proposed boycott of the Israeli academia by the UCU (University and College Union) has prompted me to write another ethical reflection on our Leeds Met reflection web site. There is no official viewpoint of Leeds Met on this - the published reflection is purely my own personal opinion. The topic is highly controversial on serveral levels, and I already got a few replies to this reflection. As a consequence, there would be a debate / discussion held sometime this summer (or autumn) about this topic.

This is quite a nice thing here at Leeds Met: here are actively engaged members of the academic community, getting involved in numerous issues. The ethical reflections provide a great forum for discussion of these issues, and I have not seen such a forum at any other university in the UK (ok, I might have not yet looked thoroughly enough).

The issue is very much debatable, and people have strong opinions about it. So do I, and in fact I could voice my opinion much stronger than I had done in that reflection. But I respect the opinion of others, and I am looking forward to engage in any debate and discussion about this.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Barbecue at Falk's Home

The "Bank Holiday" weekend (Monday, 28. May, was a day off) was a bit cool and wet - not suited for any excursions or outdoor activities. But this weekend the sun came out, and temperatures went above 20 deg. C (> 68 F). On the occasion of his birthday, Falk had invited to a barbecue in his backyard. A nice late afternoon into the evening, with talk, chat, and some beer.