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".