Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Practice and theory

From the Globe and Mail Focus section1 this weekend …

… Stephane Dion, the Quebec intellectual who defined the nation perfectly. “Canada,” he said, “is a country that works in practice, but not in theory.”

This citation was from “The trick Lazurus taught the Liberals”, by Peter C. Newman.

1 Hmmm … the Globe & Mail is launching a reorganized web site, and the Focus seciton doesn’t seem to be showing up!

China Rises, on CBC

I finally watched the last of four episodes of China Rises, that I had recorded on videotape. I think that it will be worth buying the DVD.

Mary Wong had said that this broadcast was the 44-minute versions that were a result of the collaborations with other media companies. The unexpurgated “Canadian” versions are the ones on the DVD, that are 55 minutes long.

Mon. Dec. 5, 2005: Blogging off

David gets signals of overload, and decides to retreat from blogging.

Well, I guess I’ve found my limits.

The combination of a return from a two-week non-vacation, jumping back into a consulting engagement two weeks underway, two appointments for dental restoration, plus a request for a referral to an opthamologist — that has resulted in my doctor requesting a physical, and ordering blood work that may have had complications — put me into bed for most of the weekend.

It looks like I’ll have to take lifestyle change seriously, and this includes spending less time on the computer (and maybe more on exercising).

Thus, I’ve done enough blogging to understand a lot of the dynamics of technology, and have obtained a learning of how it works. I’ll be sticking to Wikis!

Sat. Nov. 20, 2005: Big breakfasts, little dinners

After spending the whole day in the hotel on the computer, David is hosted at Restaurant Töölönranta.

(by David): I’ve been continuing my pattern of waking up early (somewhere between 4:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.) — not because I want to get up early, but just because I wake up. It’s dark before 8:15 a.m. I’m usually on the computer for a few hours, then shower and go down for breakfast. I may or may not take a nap in the afternoon (willingly or unwillingly!)

I’m really eating breakfast like a king, and dinner like a peasant. I’ve been having almost the same thing every morning. Lingonberry juice. Smoked salmon, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, Swiss potato cakes (like hash brown cakes). If I’m not planning on lunch, I’ll have a 5-minute boiled egg on wonderful whole grain bread. Fruit salad (canned peaches, pineapple, lichees), with fresh red berries (lingonberries?). I don’t have much appetite left, after that.

I spent most of the day working on one slide, which is actually a good thing. I’ve been mapping out the research territory, so figuring out how things fit together has been interesting.

Karlos invited me out for dinner, with the professor visiting with him, Hans, and his Ph.D. student. (Annaleena got confused at the invitation, and came over a bit later). We had dinner at Restaurant Töölönranta, which has been reviewed Architectural Review. Very Scandinavian. Quite a large restaurant, although it’s divided into sections so it doesn’t seem large. I decided to order all appetizers, although I maybe should have taken into account that restaurants here serve European-sized portions, instead of American-sized portions. No matter, since my stomach is still running on breakfast time!

Everyone else seemed to order the dorada, which is a small Mediterranean fish served whole. We asked about the arctic char, which the waitress claimed was a red fish that’s a speciality of Finland. Funny, in Canada, arctic char is considered one of our unique foods, and it’s a white fish. Karlos said that by the Finnish translation, he thought it was a white fish, too.

Fri. Nov. 18, 2005: Lecturing at the Polytechnic

Instead of the usual “English class” lecture, David speaks on “social software”.

(by David): Minna had asked if I could talk with her friend, Taina, who had opted out of Nokia in favour of teaching at Stadia, which is the Helsinki Polytechnic. Taina finished her Ph.D. at HUT, probably a year or two ago. Minna told me that the Stadia building was actually the original home of HUT. It’s on the Bulevardi, beside the shipyards and waterfront in central Helsinki. The institution started as a Polytechnic, became a Technical University, and then grew out of those buildings for new labs to be built in Otaniemi, which must have been a forest west of the city back then. (They must have put those bridges in, because there are two choices to cross that expanse of water).

As it happens, one of the few times that our schedules lined up was during a class, so Minna and I went over to speak to the class. When I walked in the classroom, this seemed like an IBM meeting — every student had a laptop, and their screens were up. (There was a uniformity to the HP machines which makes me think there’s sponsorship going on). Taina introduced us, Minna talked about knowledge management, and I talked about my experiences with Instant Messaging, wikis and blogs.

When Minna introduced herself, she said that she was a mechanical engineer, but she actually gave quite a managerial talk. I remarked that my degrees are in business, but I was going to be giving the technical talk!

The director of IBM Almaden Services Research, Jim Spohrer, was here about 3 weeks ago, giving talks on how IBM thinks that universities should be reoriented to teach classes in “Services Science, Management and Engineering“. Minna actually was leading a research project at HUT before she went to the New Jersey, and had thought that her research was 20 years behind. In fact, it’s proven to be six years ahead, as her content is much the same as the IBM message now.

The Finns have a knack for industry and universities to be working together in a way that we find foreign in North America. Minna and Taina are cooking up plans to have a services course in early short order — by the spring — and are working a plot that I might get involved. There’s a possibility that we might get the Finnish managers to request that I be involved somehow related to my day job, rather than the vacation time I’m currently on. This would be welcomed….

Thurs. Nov. 17, 2005: Lecturing, ma po tofu

David does the teaching thing, and cooks at Minna’s house

(by David): For some reason, I’ve been sleeping irregularly on this trip. I seem to wake up around 4:30 in the morning. This morning at 7 a.m., I had a Skype call with Simon, who is in L.A. It’s bad enough to have a 7 hour difference to Toronto, but with a 10-hour difference, one window of opportunity was the 7 a.m. call here on Thursday morning in Espoo, while it was moderately late on Wednesday night (9 p.m.) in L.A.

I had done slightly more prep for the “Innovation and Services” lecture of the Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation class than usual — I had a long list of articles for students to pre-read, and this material is a new direction for me. I had to prepare more Powerpoint slides than normal.

Even with slides, though, I really don’t work from a script. This lecture included stories about the car sharing co-ops in Toronto, the skills of taxi drivers in Beijing (for which Adam had to learn to say “Renmin Daxue”), and our plumber Alex as a knowledge worker (since I rely on him for his experience, and was chauffeuring him around while paying him that day, shopping for a toilet). I cringe at the thought of ever being quoted on these lectures, but I still record them to minidisc for transfer to MP3 files anyway, because the stories seem to get the academic ideas across. I’m usually cautioned that Finnish students are the strong, silent types, but they almost always speak up for me in class. (I always get remarks from other instructors, because the students almost always give me applause at the end of the lecture). This class also seemed to have quite a few Chinese students. Annaleena says that they have to fulfill a number of credits, and she teaches classes in English, so this subject is a likely target for foreign students. (English outweighs Finnish as a probable language for foreign students, even on campus)

Minna took me over to her house for the evening. We went grocery shopping — definitely not an abnormal event for me, and an opportunity to get a few unique Finnish products for people back home. Minna still has black beans from my last trip — I bought quite a few packages last time, they’re so cheap in Toronto — as well as soy sauce and oyster sauce, so the meal was ma po tofu, and beef and broccoli with eggplant. At the Big Apple mall in Espoo, there’s two major hypermarkets. I’d forgotten why I shop at one more frequently than the other, but this time bought the super-dense tofu that vegetarians likely use for steak. (The other store sells a brand with Chinese writing on it).

Fatigue is catching up with me. I asked Minna to take me back to the hotel after dinner, and falling asleep on the short 10 minute ride over.

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