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.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Staff Development Festival: INN Faculty Day

Today was the faculty day of Innovation North. It was opened by our Dean and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Cath Orange, followed by a keynote speach by Joe Lydon. Joe is a Rugby player, and in his motivational presentation he pointed out how sports can be an inspiration for achieving one's goals. We then had a session of workshops: I attended the workshop by Harriet Wood who gave some insight into the workings and future of our Leeds Met email system. Following this, I attended Victoria Wright's workshop on budgeting proposals and preparing the costing resp. the pricing.

After lunch, Julie Hanson from the marketing firm Brahm Ltd. presented some of the campaigns of that company had developed. This was quite relevant to some of our students for whom this company could be a future employer.

The highlight of the day was the performance by author and poet Ian McMillan. I first was wondering, how a poet would make a presentation. He began without waiting for the introduction, and introduced the introducer himself - who then followed him and introduced him. And then the show started: describing events and what happened to him on various occasions, an avalanche of words poured down onto the audience, in Yorkshire dialect. I got most of it. Very funny indeed!

At the end of his one-hour stand-up show, he composed a poem, about Innovation North, from some line fragments that were shouted to him from the audience. Here is the newly created work:

Innovation North, Innovation North, Innovation North
oh yes!
forward thinking
we're endearing
often drinking
never boring
always thinking
ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding
working hard
partner thinking

Ian McMillan performing the "Innovation North Poem". (This is my first video bupload ever to YouTube.)

Afterwards, some of his books were on sale at a a stand, and he was present there to sign them.

Ian McMillan signing his books at the Leeds Met Staff Development Festival, Innovation North Faculty Day

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Two Fires in Yorkshire

On my way to Huddersfield between 11:00 and noon, as I was driving on the motorway M62 towards West, I saw this large cloud of black smoke covering the sky. A fire was burning somewhere. I was curious, and at the exit 25 I went north instead of south, to see what it was that was burning. Somewhere north of Brighouse was the source of the fire: in the Monoplas Industries. In the news in the evening, it was reported that plastic containers had caught fire, causing that thick black smoke.

Later in the evening, as I drove down the slope into the Kirkstall valley, there was another plume of smoke, coming from somewhere behind the "Bridge Pub" near the bridge across the river Aire. I stopped at Morrisons for shopping, and when I came out, the smoke was gone, only a smell of burnt plastic in the air. Coincidences? Two fires on one day? Does not happen very often. About the 2nd fire, nothing was in the news in the evening (or did I miss it?).

Short visit in Huddersfield

The former West Yorkshire Knowledge Exchange (WYKE) is transforming into C3KE = Centre for Creative and Cultural Knowledge Exchange. This organisation has the goal to fund projects at the intersection of culture and creative technology, and its members are the following Yorkshire Universities: U. Huddersfield, U. Bradford, U. York, U. Leeds, and Leeds Metropolitan University. On Wednesday I had a lunch with a few of their members, to see the facilities of the centre in Bates Mill in Huddersfield.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A day full of workshops

Today I attended 3 workshops in the "Options Day" of the ALT conference as part of the Leeds Met Staff Development Festival: the first workshop introduced the Innovation North approach to footprint timetabling of courses, which is a new way of dealing with the flexible learning requirements. The second workshop was held by Graham Orange and was about research in a Further Education context and how it can be fostered. The 3rd workshop was actually cancelled, but Sally Brown held a replacement workshop about Assessment. I had to miss the final workshop which I had originally booked, due to some work that I needed to do quickly. And then was a meeting of the informal "Ethics" group at Leeds Met, where we discussed how to respon to current themes. It was decided to hold a few public debates about controversial issues, to stimulate discussions and thinking. And I set up a blog: Uneasy Ethics (is for now a working title). Nothing of significance has been posted there yet, but we will see how the ethics group - and then the public - will respond to this.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Staff Development Festival: ALT Conference

On Monday the Leeds Met Staff Development Festival continues: Pro-Vice-Chancellor Sally Brown is opening the Assessment, Learning and Teaching (ALT) Conference. There are three very intersting keynote speaches: Neil Fleming presents the V.A.R.K. concept: every learner has certain preferences in his/her learning style: visual, auditory, read/write, or kinetic (learning by doing). Each conference participant filled out his questionnaire and came to a personal classification. My own classification turns out to be "read/write". Then Gilly Salmon from U. Leicester talks about their online projects ("Mediazoo") and about technology-enhanced learning in general. In the afternoon, John Naughton gave a talk about technology and current trends in social networking. Very sharp arguments, well spoken, and not afraid of taking clear sides ("the use of powerpoint should be made a punishable offense"). A very passionate liberal intellectual - more people of his type are needed.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Short Hike: Great Almscliff Crag

The weather is just so nice, I cannot resist taking a short trip into the countryside, despite the fact that I still have to write two papers, have to digitize several video sequences, have to write software... and have to do some assembly work in the house. But here is not California, where the weather is always good: when the sun shines in Leeds, you better make good use of it - it might be the last time for a while. And so I head towards North across the Wharfedale near Otley. I always have seen that little rock from far away - it looks like the highest peak around, and I want to climb it. Without any map, I just drive by sight towards it. But in the maze of little valleys, the peaks disappears out of sight, and I drive for a while in a spiral motion around it, until I finally have reached the "inner spiral": now I see the peak very close.

It is the Great Almscliff Crag, a stone formation that sticks out of the wavy hilly landscape. There are several cars parked on the nearby road, these are mostly rock climbers, as the vertical slopes of that rock allow a little bit of Alpine feel.

On the way up, the wind blows strongly and uninhibited by any obstacle. The clouds move fast from West, and soon it will be cloudy again. From the top there is a gorgeous view in all directions. After I have been on top, I go down on the other side, walk around it, and then go back. As I arrive at the home, the sky is overcast - that's it with the sunshine.

Staff Development Festival - Weekend Activities

The Leeds Met Staff Development Festival does not stop on weekends: there is action around the whole 14+ days. This Saturday and Sunday was actually the Leeds Met Alumni celebration, with former graduates from the university. On Friday and Saturday there was a Farmers Market on campus - this is the only time that one could buy fresh pork sausages from a butcher right on the Acre!

The weather on Saturday morning was "brilliant", that is blue sky, a slight autumnly crisp air. Strong winds had been blowing during Friday and Saturday, and one of the sellers at the Farmers market got actually hurt when the wind blew his tent away.