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The end of an era

May 10th, 2011 2 comments

Too early and unnecessarily you had to go (i.e. you had been “let go” by someone).

Office door of Stimme and me

Office door of Stimme and me

Categories: English, German, Other Tags:

My take on GTD (getting things done)

November 30th, 2010 No comments

After coming back from my trip to Cuba, my inbox was pretty filled, as usual. But even after sorting out there were almost 70 emails left (not counting newsletters), that were still important in one way or another. And I noticed that I actually missed some stuff that was supposed to be finished already. This was when I decided, that using your inbox (+labels) wasn’t enough anymore to stay ahead of your work, if you have a job situation and personal projects similar to mine (research assistant). A colleague told me that he is using the method of Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen.

The gist of it is: Whenever you get an email (or anything else) do it immediately if it can be done fast, delete or delegate it, or file a task of it to be done when you have time for it. This way, you can concentrate on the task ahead while you can free your mind of currently unnecessary occupations. Now, with due-dates and priorities you can go to through your tasks step by step, always having exactly one goal in mind (of course this is a shortened version of the system, see google or wikipedia or the book for details).

So I started to convert my emails to tasks and actually liked that a lot. I wouldn’t miss important things anymore just because they were lost in my inbox somewhere and I could make a list of “next tasks” to focus on. Additionally, this is extremely well supported in http://www.toodledo.com, and there was a nice android app named got to do with full synchronisation support. However, that was still not the optimal solution. While it drastically improved the organization of work and helped with having an overview of the total amount of work to be done, I got lost fast due to the amount of tasks (75 currently) and I almost lost more time organising tasks than actually doing work. The main issue is on how to sort your tasks, my colleague used a different system than I, and we both were using different systems than David Allen. None of them was really fitting in my opinion.

David Allen’s system isn’t really suitable imho, if you have a lot of “private” taks (in my case, most of them stemming from my dissertation, as well as private projects) and you are not assigned to a small number of specific projects; I can’t make a specific project for every task, as in my job there are dozens of very different assignments. So I used a number of general projects like “work (general)”, “dissertation”, “teaching”, “project proposals”, “private projects” etc. And using due date for sorting tasks isn’t working either, as most points of my dissertation don’t have specific due dates – so will never be on top of the list and thus never be a “next task”. Manual sorting isn’t really cutting it either and priorities are too inflexibel. After about two weeks of using the system, I think I found a way which is somewhat suitable (and much better compared to simple note systems or just emails):

  • Every Sunday I sort out all tasks I want to finish next week and file them under the status of “next task”
  • All tasks get due dates; in case of unspecific tasks e.g. regarding my thesis, they get due dates when I want to have those finished at the latest. Task not to be done within the next week are marked as “active”
  • All other tasks, where I have not yet decided on a due date but need to be done are marked “planning”
  • Everything else which I just want to do when I’m in the mood or when there’s plenty of time (like learning something new) is marked as “someday”
  • I use priorities to sort tasks having the same due date, but that’s just a bonus
  • The order of sorting in Toodledo is thus: status → due date → priority (without pro subscription only two criteria are allowed, however that’s not a big deal)

I have two additional tips for the use with toodledo:

  • When using gmail, it’s easy to link tasks with permalinks. Just paste the gmail url and replace #mbox with #all, e.g.: https://mail.google.com/mail/#all/12c9d6c3d5a4e879
  • The stylish or greasemonkey plugin has a really nice layout enhancement for toodledo: http://userstyles.org/styles/27157
  • If you have the pro subscriptions, you can use subtasks, to avoid having to many projects/folders; all projects that are short-lived and have a small number of tasks (maybe three) are filed using subtasks instead of folders.

If you are using GTD or toodledoo, too, or have a job situation similar to mine, please let me know of your experiences, how you organise yourself or what way of sorting you prefer. I’d be really interested in that.

rsslibnotify – My very first python script

October 28th, 2010 6 comments

UPDATE: I included tante’s comments and extended the program. The config-file now allows you to define the checking interval and will be automatically created if nonexisting.

I noticed that gwibber removed their rss support for some reason. However, it would be really nice to have the option for libnotify to …well… notify you on gnome when there is something new on rss/atom feeds you find important. Since I always wanted to learn python anyway, I hacked together a small script, which does exactly that. Just create a config file in ~/.rsslibnotify with a number of rss/atom feeds separated by newlines and you will be informed every ten minutes via libnotify if there’s something new. (see update above)

feedparser and pynotify need to be installed prior. Btw. feedparser is giving me errors while installing, however seems to be working without a problem.

Of course this script is far from perfect. Keep in mind it’s my first python script and I worked at most one to two hours on it ;).

Available for download here: rsslibnotify.py

#!/usr/bin/python
# coding=utf-8
 
#
#    Copyright 2010 by Daniel Süpke
#
#    This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
#    it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
#    the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
#    (at your option) any later version.
#
#    This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
#    but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
#    MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the
#    GNU General Public License for more details.
#
#    You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
#    along with this program.  If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.
 
#
# rsslibnotify v0.3
#
 
import pynotify
import feedparser
import time
import os.path
import sys
 
config_file = os.path.expanduser('~/.rsslibnotify')
feeds = []
titles = []
 
try:
    file = open(config_file, 'r')
except:
    file = open(config_file, 'w')
    file.write('# amount of seconds to wait before checking for new items\n')
    file.write('interval 600\n\n')
    file.write('# feeds to check\n')
    file.write('feed https://suepke.net/feed/\n')
    file.write('feed http://rss.golem.de/rss.php?feed\x3dRSS1.0\x26ms\x3drss\n')
 
    print('Config file not found! Created example file at ' + config_file + '. Please edit.')
    sys.exit(0)
 
for line in file.readlines():
    config_line = line.rstrip().partition('#')[0] # Remove \n and comments
 
    if config_line.startswith('feed '):
        feeds.append(config_line.partition('feed ')[2])
    if config_line.startswith('interval '):
        interval = int(config_line.partition('interval ')[2])
 
    titles.append('')
 
file.close()
 
if not feeds:
    print('There were no feeds in your config file at ' + config_file + '. Exiting...')
    sys.exit(0)
 
if not interval:
    print('No check interval has been defined. Assuming ten minutes.')
    interval = 600
 
# Check for new feeds every interval seconds
while True:
    i = 0
 
    for feed in feeds:
        d = feedparser.parse(feed)
 
        # Assume new content if there is a new title
        if d.entries[0].title != titles[i]:
            titles[i] = d.entries[0].title
 
            if pynotify.init('rssnotify'):
                n = pynotify.Notification(d.feed.title, d.entries[0].title)
                n.show()
            else:
                print('there was a problem initializing the pynotify module')
        i += 1
 
    time.sleep(interval)

Rollins Band – Illumination

August 19th, 2010 No comments

Illumination comes so hard
Makes me see but leaves its scars
At times I wish that I didn’t know what I know now
Thought and thought until I lost my mind
Looked and looked until I went near blind
The path is fair but so unkind
Illumination

Video (bad quality, unfortunately):

Rollins Band – Illumination

Categories: English, Other Tags: ,

That’s what you get for wanting to work at home for once…

August 13th, 2010 1 comment
Categories: English, German, Other Tags: , ,

Uni Oldenburg VPN with ubuntu 10.04

May 11th, 2010 5 comments

Finally got the VPN of my university working. I will share how I got it working in case you study/work here and want to use it, too.

I found the VPN to be more stable when started from a shell:
sudo apt-get install vpnc
sudo nano /etc/vpnc/default.conf

Edit the config as following:
IPSec gateway 10.9.8.7
IPSec ID student
IPSec secret student
#IKE Authmode hybrid
Xauth username YOUR
Xauth password YOUR

Then just connect to the wlan and start the vpn with sudo vpnc.

If you want to use the network-manager, you need to install another package. However, I always get an error message about invalid secrets. If you have more luck, please let me know.
sudo apt-get install network-manager-vpnc
sudo service network-manager restart

Stephen Fry on the (catholic) Church

March 8th, 2010 No comments

This is easily one of the best speeches I have heard in my life.

The Intelligence² Debate – Stephen Fry (Unedited)
von Xrunner17

Categories: English, Politics Tags: ,

How not to review scientific papers

March 5th, 2010 No comments

This year a scientific conference will take place, where me and a number other colleagues of our department submitted papers to. A double-blind review process was selected for this conference, meaning that two independent reviewers will evaluate and give marks for papers. This is (in theory) a good process. Often times the reviews are helpful for the authors, even when their papers are not accepted, and the overall quality of the conference is somewhat ensured. Now, I got back some of the some worst reviews I ever read – not because my papers got rejected (one got accepted) – but because of the review comments. Some colleagues asked me whether to take such reviews seriously and I asked some of them myself. I’d like to share my thoughts about this with you and I’m pretty sure you will agree.

I was (co-)author of two different papers. Since I knew there were a high number of submission, acceptance was not guaranteed, but I was eager to see the reviews, which often proved very helpful on other conferences. These were the actual reviews we got:

REVIEW 1
Clearly exceeds 400-word limt for abstract.
Very interesting innovative approach on participatory planning software. Once
up and running, I would like to learn more about experiences with the
implementation. (5/10)

At least this review had one hint, that the reviewer actually read the paper. But clearly exceeds 400-word limit? Our abstract had (including date and title) 394 words → FAIL

REVIEW 2
may be rejected (4/10)

may be rejected? Oh really? That’s so helpful, who needs reasons anyway? My grandmother probably could have written a better review, and she surely isn’t able to read English scientific papers → FAIL

Now to the second paper, which was actually accepted:

REVIEW 1
In order to properly compare companies as a whole on a higher level, the
authors suggest to a) aggregate key performance indicators towards a single
evaluation value and b) to assign different weights to indicators based on
stakeholder input.
The new models need to be summarized more clearly. (9/10)

Ok, this is actually the best review (which is quite sad), because it shows the reviewer at least read it. Also, he/she gives one hint, which is not really helpful (in a full paper it’s much easier to clearly present the approach compared to a 400-word abstract), but at least it’s something. In other conferences this review would be fail, but now my standards are so low already, I’ll say it’s acceptable. Not to worry though, there’s another review:

REVIEW 2
good paper (8/10)

Gee, thanks! This is such a reasonable, well structured review. What can I say? Oh yes → FAIL

One of the foundations of scientific method is to have results written down in an understandable (reproducible) order. This conference had more submission than expected, granted. But having this review process is just utterly pointless – you can’t even tell if the reviewers at least had a look at your paper. For what it’s worth: Most of the papers accepted here had some professor titles as authors – this doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but just a hint on another big problem of current science – titles are more important than content.
Overall, this feedback just leaves a very shallow taste whether the conference (or at least the reviewers) can be taken seriously. The conference hasn’t even started and already leaves an unprofessional impression. Let’s hope, the actual presentations and final papers will make up for this.

Categories: English, Other Tags: ,

How to create a law that no one wants

February 25th, 2010 No comments

A prime example on how much many of our politicians and parties suck, has just come into effect; not only does it show that in times of election laws are constructed just for the cause of doing something (which in the best cases is harmless and plain nonsense), but also demonstrates the utter incompetence of politicians:
The Zugangserschwerungsgesetz (“Bill on making access more difficult”, rough translation, isn’t the German language just great?) has passed, although pretty much everyone else was against it.

Well, now elections are over and suddenly even the Verräterpartei (traitor’s party) and the Schwarze Pest (black plaque) are against their own law! To top it all, they are now advising the police not to apply the new law, which again is unconstitutional.

And those two form our biggest parties! German major parties – where incompetency and symbol politics meet in perfect harmony.
(not that this does not apply to other parties, too)

Categories: English, Politics Tags: ,

Moonlight Sonata

October 16th, 2009 No comments

To be honest, I find most classical music to be plain boring. But a number of compositions stand out, being absolutely brilliant and I love listening to them. One of them being the Moonlight Sonata from Beethoven. I heard some people saying that music is similar to mathematics; well I never could really see why. In this video, the music is visualised in a way I’ve not seen before and while I still not necessarily see a connection to Math, it certainly has a beautiful structure to it, besides the music itself. Just watch it:

Plain beautiful.

Categories: English, Have a look Tags: ,