Friday, May 29, 2009

Inaugural Lecture of Visiting Prof. Nick Childs

This evening we had a treat at Leeds Met: Prof. Nick Childs who has been appointed Visiting Professor to our Faculty Innovation North, has given his inaugural lecture. Since he is the director of the Black Dyke Band, he came with the whole band - and they performed several pieces as he gave his talk about the golden age of brass bands

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Problem with Blog on MS IE8 - only at work!

Today when checking this blog, I got an error: "Cannot find file...". I was using MS Internet Explorer 8. I tried in the other browsers (Firefox, Safari, Chrome), and it worked fine. So I thought it must be something on my blog which throws off MS IE 8, and I began disabling / commenting out some of the Javascripts. But the error still remained - I was puzzled.

Then in the evening, when I tried again. Now it worked ok!

So my conclusion: it must be some settings of the proxy. At work, we connect to the internet through a proxy server, and I always have to change the settings. Never had a problem though. Also strange is that it only appears in MS IE8. Google Chrome actually shares the proxy settings, but that browser has no problems....

So I will enable again all my sidebar Javascripts, as most people in the world probably connect to the web without a proxy server.

Beware: ESTA for Travel to US

Since a few months, travellers to the US need to get an online pre-approval from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the airline can accept them on board. This approval is given here by ESTA = Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
Is not really a problem - is for free (at the moment at least) and usually gives an immediate approval/authorization number, which one needs to bring then to the airport when checking in.

When I was ready to do this, I noticed that there are many ESTA sites on Google, and they all look very official. First I landed at and was surprised to find there a fee mentioned ($49.95). Also the site charges a fee (£20.00), and so does ($45). As I have found out from other bloggers, these sites are scam! They may work and actually give you a valid authorization, but they are ripping you off - you need not to pay any fee for this service! (Therefore, I did not put a link under those sites here in this blog entry).

So in case you plan to travel to the US and need the ESTA authorization, only go through this site:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bank Holiday: at Armley Mills

When I moved to Leeds in late summer 2005, one of my first weekend visits had been to the Armley Mills Industrial Museum. It is located in a former industrial mill, which have been so typical for the urban landscape of Northern England. I had been very impressed with their collection of industrial machinery, locomotives, engines, and I also was amazed by the interesting facts exhibition of the movie pioneer Louis Le Prince who recorded the very first ever movie scenes here in Leeds.
When I visited the Armley Mills Museum in October 2005, there was unfortunately no steam engine in operation - they fire one up only once per month. So this past weekend I used the opportunity to see another steam engine in action.
Machinery for making cloth.

Steam engine in operation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Microsoft Internet Explorer 8

A few days ago I upgraded to Microsoft Explorer 8. Was hesitant first, as new versions often have problems. But I must note that I was pleasantly surprised - no problem so far. One add-on was automatically disabled, something to do with a DriveLetterAccess (not sure why I need that in the first place...).

Some friends of mine had trouble: a lot of DEP exceptions in the add-ons, flash or images would not show up. But miraculously, these problems disappeared after a while, without any specific measures.

One issue is there, however, with the Blogger site: when logged in, the blog posts now do not show the edit-shortcut link below the post. This works ok in Google Chrome, and it used to work ok in IE 7 and earlier.

One other thing I noticed: the Microsoft Photosynths work now in several browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, MS Explorer. I will add soon a few more there.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Innovation North Showcase - Video

As I wrote recently, last week there was the Innovation North Showcase here at Leeds Met, where the level-3 students demonstrated their projects. Leeds Met has released a video of this event:

This video shows some of the students for whom I had the pleasure and privilege to be a tutor.
(I am also somewhere in this video...)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

YSTN Event at the York Railway Museum

After a full day of marking, I head in the evening to York, to the Railway Museum. Not for the trains this time, but for a presentation hosted by the Yorkshire
Science and Technology Network. Michael Ryan (yes, the one from Ryanair) gives a presentation about innovation. Well, I am slightly skeptical if removing reclinable seats or charging for visits to the loo can be considered to be "innovation" - in my view, innovation is supposed to be positive, forward-thinking, bringing progress and improvement, not hardship..., but I guess someone's innovation sometimes is someone else's reduction in progress (meaning reduction in comfort in this case). The next innovation may then be that passengers have to carry their luggage themselves to the airplane, or maybe they have all together to pull the plane from the gate onto the runway... there is still plenty of opportunity for "innovation".

But the event was enjoyable, because of good networking opportunities. An interesting audience there, lots of people with entrepreneurial interests. And of course, being surrounded by steam trains (unfortunately just standing still) is simply unbeatable!

At the Innovation North Student Showcase

Lots of buzz in the James Graham Building here on our Headingley Campus all day yesterday on Tuesday, as our L3 students presented their work to the public. The Annual Student Showcase was the opportunity for them to display the results of their group project. I visited all the groups which I am going to mark these next three days - I will have a full schedule Wednesday - Friday!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

An Award for the India Project!

This evening I attended the Yorkshire Post Inaugural Environment Awards dinner. Brian Lewis' project about creating awareness of climate change, "Yorkshire Rivers talk to Gujarati Rivers" or short "The Rivers Project" had been shortlisted for an award in the category Climate Change, so he and I went to the Queens Hotel to attend this dinner. We were joined by Jane Weatherby from Northern College Barnsley and Polly from the Alternative Energy Institute in Hebden Bridge.

The evening was moderated by TV presenter Julia Bradbury. An excellent dinner was served, followed by a brief speech by the UK Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband. Then the awards - and our "Rivers Project" got it! Brian and Jane picked up the trophy, and I took the video.

After back from the dinner, I prepared a brief summary web site, because I did not yet have one about the specifics of this project - the site will be made to look nicer sometime in the future, but for now this should be ok to convey just some information:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Back towards Leeds

The workshop ended around 16:30. I had some time to walk around and took a stroll from the City across London Bridge, then further towards Tower Bridge, along the river Thames. Very nice sunshine first, but then darker clouds covered the sky. On Tower Bridge I turned around and walked back to London Bridge station.

Wanted to have some dinner at a very nice pub, but it was very full, no space to sit, and long wait at the bar. So I had my dinner at St. Pankras Station (the pub in Kings Cross is closed now, there is a major construction going on at that station.

The Wifi now in the train back to Leeds appears to have some problems, the throughput is quite slow. I will arrive in Leeds shortly before 23:00.

EPSRC Workshop "Maths for Life"

I arrived on time at the venue in Canary Wharf. Nice environment, all very new, recently built. Never before have I attended a similar event, where a future EPSRC sandpit was to be prepared. There were 74 participants from various disciplines who were interested in this theme "Maths of Life". We wrote on the "table cloth" (made out of paper) why we attended and why this topic interested us; then we moved on to define the specific challenges in this area. Overall, eight different challenges were defined, which were then discussed in the afternoon in groups. My interest in "Artificial Creativity/Innovation/Intuition" was shared by not many, but the few participants who joined the table where this topic was to be discussed, were quite enthusiastic about it.

EPSRC collected the output of these discussions and will use them now for setting up the future sandpit - a public call will soon be issued. Unfortunately only one of those challenge topics will probably make it as sandpit topic...

On the way to London

I really do not like getting up so early, but I had no other choice: in order to be in time at the meeting in Granary Wharf at 9:30, I had to take the 6:05 train leaving from Leeds. What an ungodly hour in the morning!

Contrary to what many people say, trains in the UK are very punctual. At least I had no contrary experience, all trains I had ever travelled on here, left spot on time. This one is no exception: exactly at 6:05 it began to roll out. Slight rain, which cleared after a driving south for a while.

The "National Express" train has free WiFi, giving me an opportunity to post this blog entry here.

The meeting today is a workshop, organised by EPSRC on the topic "Maths of Life". The participants were invited, after submitting a one-page summary about experience and ideas. My area of interest which I pitched here is the "mathematics of music". I hope that this topic will attract some interest by others, and that thiw might lead to joint projects.

The meeting will end late afternoon. I reserved for a later train, so that I will be able to walk a bit around London and visit places where I have not yet been.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Railway Weekend

On Saturday I visited the Middleton Railway here in Leeds. This is the "World's Oldest Working Railway", in operation since 1758. A little gem, somewhat hidden away. Volunteers operate it on weekends. running either diesel (on Saturday) or steam engines (Sunday). There is parking at Moor Road Station.

On Sunday I went to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, to see the newly built Tornado A1 steam engine. It would run there from Friday through Monday, and again on the next weekend. Unfortunately the Tornado had developed a problem on Saturday evening and was now being repaired. Many people who had come specifically to this event, were quite disappointed. The morning train which was supposed to be hauled by the Tornado, was instead hauled by the "Sir Nigel Gresley", the fastest UK steam locomotive. I took a few pictures from it at Pickering Station, then went out into the countryside to take videos from steam trains driving by.

Later I visited the Pickering Model Railroad Exhibition, where I found a rare specimen: Stephenson's Liverpool-Manchester train, with the "Rocket".