New Year and New Job

It is a New Year and I am late with my Christmas crackers again!

If you are expecting the annual virtual cracker from me it is coming … but maybe not before Twelfth Night :-/

The New Year is bringing changes, not least, as many already know, I am moving my academic role and taking up a part-time post as professor down in Birmingham University.

At Birmingham I will be joining an established and vibrant HCI centre, including long-term colleague and friend Russell Beale.  The group has recently had substantial  investment from the University leading to several new appointments including Andrew Howes (who coincidentally also has past Lancaster connections).

The reasons for the move are partly to join this exciting group and partly to simplify life as Talis is based in Birmingham, so just one place to travel to regularly, and one of my daughters also there.

Of course this also means I will be leaving many dear colleagues and friends at Lancaster, but I do expect to continue to work with many and am likely to retain a formal or informal role there for some time.

As well as moving institutions I am also further reducing my percentage of academic time — typically I’ll be just one day a week academic.  So, apologies in advance if my email responses becomes even more sporadic and I turn down (or fail to answer :-() requests for reviews, PhD exams, etc.

Although moving institutions, I will, of course, continue to live up in Tiree (wild and windy, but, at the moment, so is everywhere!), so will still be travelling up and down the country; I’ll wave as I pass!

… and there will be another Tiree Tech Wave in March 🙂

A month away brain engaged and blood on the floor

Writing at Glasgow airport waiting for flight home after nearly whole month away. I have had a really productive time first at Talis HQ and Lancs (all in the camper van!) and then visits to Southampton (experience design and semantic web), Athens (ontologies and brain-like computation) and Konstanz (visualisation and visual analytics).

Loads of intellectual stimulation, but now really looking forward to some time at home to consolidate a little.

During my time away I managed to fall downstairs, bleed profusely over the hotel floor, and break a tooth. My belonging didn’t fare any better: my glasses fell apart and my sandals and suitcase are now holding together by threads … So maybe safer at home for a bit!

names – a file by any other name

Naming things seems relatively unproblematic until you try to do it — ask any couple with a baby on the way.  Naming files is no easier.

Earlier today Fiona @lovefibre was using the MAC OS Time Machine to retrieve an old version of a file (let’s call it “fisfile.doc”).  She wanted to extract a part that she knew she had deleted in order to use in the current version.  Of course the file you are retrieving has the same name as the current file, and the default is to overwrite the current version; that is a simple backup restore.  However, you can ask Time Machine to retain both versions; at which point you end up with two files called, for example, “fisfile.doc” and “fisfile-original.doc”.  In this case ‘original’ means ‘the most recent version’ and the unlabelled one is the old version you have just restored.  This was not  too confusing, but personally I would have been tempted to call the restored file something like “fisfile-2010-01-17-10-33.doc”, in particular because one wonders what will happen if you try to restore several copies of the same file to work on, for example, to work out when an error slipped into a document.

OK, just an single incident, but only a few minutes later I had another example of problematic naming.

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now part-time!

Many people already knew this was happening, but for those that don’t — I am now officially a part-time university academic.

Now this does not mean I’m going to be a part-time academic, quite the opposite.  The reason for moving to working part-time at the University is to give me freedom to do the things I’d like to do as an academic, but never have time.  Including writing more, reading, and probably cutting some code!

Reading especially, and I don’t mean novels (although that would be nice), but journal papers and academic books.  Like most academics I know, for years I have only read things that I needed to review, assess, or comment on — or sometimes in a fretful rush, the day before a paper is due, scurried to find additional related literature that I should have known about anyway.  That is I’d like some time for scholarship!

I guess many people would find this odd: working full time for what sounds like doing your job anyway, but most academics will understand perfectly!

Practically, I will work at Lancaster in spurts of a few weeks, travel for meetings and things, sometimes from Lancs and sometimes direct from home, and when I am at home do a day a week on ‘normal’ academic things.

This does NOT mean I have more time to review, work on papers, or other academic things, but actually the opposite — this sort of thing needs to fit in my 50% paid time … so please don’t be offended or surprised if I say ‘no’ a little more.  The 50% of time that is not paid will be for special things I choose to do only — I have another employer — me 🙂

Watch my calendar to see what I am doing, but for periods marked @home, I may only pick up mail once a week on my ‘office day’.

Really doing this and keeping my normal academic things down to a manageable amount is going to be tough.  I have not managed to keep it to 100% of a sensible working week for years (usually more like 200%!).  However, I am hoping that the sight of the first few half pay cheques may strengthen my resolve 😉

In the immediate future, I am travelling or in Lancs for most of February and March with only about 2 weeks at home in between, however, April and first half of May I intend to be in Tiree watching the waves, and mainly writing about Physicality for the new Touch IT book.