Bath House Closes

The Bath House is, unfortunately, closed as of now. I have consolidated my different blogs in one new location, where you will find Xizao’s utterings under the categories “Self” and “Teaching”. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride!


Free books … python

I couldn’t really come up with a proper title for this posting. Lately, I have made contact with Python, an object-oriented, high-level scripting language (which I first noticed consciously after reading about Pausch). There is a lovely free text bookby Allen Downey, which I highly recommend – I was also impressed by Downey’s account of why not write free books.

A course by Downey on “Software Design” helped me to realize which improvements I need to apply to my “project-centered” teaching method. E.g. letting the students write a proper project proposal, mixing homework and lab work, and confining the project to the last 8 weeks of the semester. Lots to do…

Another book I am currently working through is Collective Intelligence by Toby Segaran – essentially on creating smart Web 2.0 applications. I would love to use this as the basis for a course on the same topic in our planned Masters study programme (“MIS Masters at the Berlin School of Economics” – here is the blog).

I am very excited about both teaching and writing right now!

KM dead?

Funny feeling to read about knowledge management (KM) as “a buzzword of the 90’s” in a recent blog – because it was such a large part of my professional life… I don’t know why the author calls himself “weird guy” – he does not sound weird – if anything, he’s a little literal. Perhaps he’d like to be weird?

My guitar gently weeps…

Kate Nash – Foundation, skeleton song and Navy Taxi (my favourite, because it’s the gentlest).

I like to think of Harriet Tubman

First life is a lot of work right now, but it is also fun: I am rediscovering Christian Wolff, the American-German composer. Here are some wonderful improvisations. And here are trio improvisations from Dartmouth festival. I am actually quite addicted to some of his pieces which I only got on CD – “I like to think of Harriet Tubman”, a piece with voice based on a great poem of the same title by Susan Griffin:

I like to think of Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman who carried a revolver,
who had a scar on her head from a rock thrown
by a slave-master (because she
talked back), and who

had a ransom on her head
of thousands of dollars and who
was never caught, and who
had no use for the law
when the law was wrong,
who defied the law. I like
to think of her.
I like to think of her especially when I think of the problem of feeding children.

I want them to think about Harriet Tubman,
and remember,
remember she was beat by a white man
and she lived
and she lived to redress her grievances,

and she lived in swamps
and wore the clothes of a man
bringing hundreds of fugitives from

slavery, and was never caught,
and led an army,
and won a battle,
and defied the laws
because the laws were wrong, I want men
to take us seriously I am tired wanting them to think
about right and wrong.
I want them to fear.
I want them to feel fear now
as I have felt suffering in the womb, and
I want them
to know
that there is always a time
there is always a time to make right
what is wrong,
there is always a time
for retribution
and that time
is beginning.

If “second life” were for real …

This is a really easy to see parody on “life” in second life – but very well done, I must say.

Having said that, I am not sure, this even is meant as a parody. It just comes across that way to me. Today, I stayed away from SL as such. Instead, to prepare for the coming term, I looked for a suitable tool to take screencasts. There are great guides out there already, and a bunch of useful tools – both for purchase and for free. In the end, I went with iShowU by Shinywhitebox, which seems to be a … [nostalgic music coming on] … New Zealand company … [nostalgic music fading]. I already made a few experimental movies from within SecondLife (or rather, filming the screen of SecondLife while being logged and moving around in there).

And by and by, I developed moviemaker fantasies: I even began writing a script for one of my avatars on there … no, I will not disclose his identity. But let me say this much: you will not, unless he opens his mouth, discover me!

On the more practical side, I need to make a movie (or perhaps simply use one of the available introductory clips on YouTube) of Second Life for an upcoming research meeting if I want to win a grant (many of the people in the audience will not even have heard of SL), and I must create a few tutorials for using the Wiki, which I had installed on my host server. Next thing I have to master is recording a voice-over for the movie. I am really quite excited about that … not too excited of course, lest I disturb the quiet mood of the Bath House 😉

There is more to tell of my explorations into the virtual 3D world, or “metaverse”, as it is now called. One of my avatars is a young, sexy black woman, a vampyre actually. I really enjoyed shopping clothes … and “skin” for her (dark skin, shapely breasts, and all that). More than I ever enjoyed shopping IRL. This vampyre is mostly active in NOR, a dark Sim, or group of Sims (i.e. connected regions of virtual land), where avatars dressed and role-playing as supernaturals, undead, nekros, humans or demons haunt the city and kill each other in wars that they organise and conduct themselves (subject to a relatively strict regime of rules – and without the rules, it probably would not work either). The role-playing as a female in particular is very attractive … and often difficult. My other avatar (an older male) is easier to use and morph into.

Anyway, I am drifting through the virtual ocean quite happily, without paying too much attention to time and money spent (I am a land owner there, too), hoping – no, expecting – some valid return at some point. So far, I have never been disappointed by my intuition, which says “this is interesting and fun – pursue it”. At least some of the way. Who knows where it will get me in the end – where it will get us all in the end?

To wet your appetite – here is a completely different use of SecondLife that got nothing to do with socialising, role-playing, gaming or even programming – watch Ant life in SL.

Second Life

Well, you all read about it – but have you been there? I have been in Second Life, on “in-world”, as the residents say, since nearly three weeks now, entertaining not one, but three avatars. I have bought virtual land, made virtual friends (one friend, actually), and generally had a good time learning new things. I own an entire rock on the “mainland” now. There are neighbours, who are never there. Advertisement cubes float in the air and way above, about 200 m up, hovers a platform that I cannot enter – god know what’s going on there. There is even a search warrant for the little girl that disappeared in real life (IRL) – her face is featured on a column nearby. What does it all mean? I don’t know yet. I am reminded of those days on the MOO – a much smaller place with a lot more interaction and a lot less distraction (esp. because it was not visual – only what you made of it in your head). Plans: building a virtual institute, offering at least one class (object-orientation seems suitable), opening an art gallery, giving SL concerts, even taking clients. I have to get a grand piano for that! I will keep you posted … for now, come to Aya’s Rock to see the other “me” 😉 … or see where all this might be going – and here is an interesting article on learning in SL.

Man must dance

New semester has started. To my great surprise, there is a fair number of veteran lecturers who seem to feel just as virginal as I do. Perhaps our holidays are too long?

I have got two very different classes in business information systems – both seem more difficult “to get”, but it always seems that way in the first 2 weeks. One currently holds over 90 students which is is a nightmare – at least for the kind of teaching I do, which tends to use group dynamics. But this comes close to talking at a large conference. I am sure it’ll all be only half as exciting and challenging in a few weeks time, but right now I am re-thinking didactic concepts.

Most exciting for me: I have chosen a new research area – I call it “aesthetics of information architectures” for lack of a better name. Looking for the “sublime” in IS. Already contacted a couple of MISQ (top tier magazine in my field) editors to get into the reviewer circle, which is arguably one of the better ways to get started (again). But the prospect of doing research once more is very stimulating!

The title of this blog: one of my (many) new favourite songs, Man Must Dance by Johnossi.

MacBook Pro

Well, the macworld got me back – since Wednesday, I have been playing and installing around my new 15” MacBook Pro. Far more than a gadget – I had one of the first iBooks back in London, with the then-new MacOS X, and though I loved the design and the distinctly anti-corporate feel of the machine, it was still too buggy and too slow for my taste. Now, this is not an issue with this slim piece of metal whose keyboard is illuminated from below when the lights are dimmed … an iPod Shuffle has entered my life at the same time, so I do feel like gadget-person again. But it is brilliant, whatever they say about modern man being spoiled is true: I am listening to classic radio while writing this, next to it I have opened a podcast with an interesting session (30 min) on the secrets of online communities (Knowledge@Wharton) – I have an Aqua (the Mac’s surface scheme) Emacs, too, and a dashboard to see temperature and business news feeds at the same time as entering new data in my MySQL database. And so on. It’s Web 2.0 allright, when I talk to my friend in Mexico over Skype (using the – of course – built-in webcam which is so small one can hardly see it). Do I sound like a nutcase? Well, the Apple was my first love many moons ago, and it still holds – especially when the company embraces OpenSource (I do use NeoOffice, the Mac-port of The Gimp is not such an easy affair because it depends on GNU libs and X11 – couldnt face that yet. Bye for now, gotta download the new Nelly Furtado song … 😉

end in sight

well, the semester is drawing to a close quickly, and i am glad for it. i created about 30 brand new lectures. kind of proud of it, at least some of it. the real meat was in the classroom sessions – both classes were good, one was small (usually 6-7 students) and grew into ‘outstanding’. the last step: exams, new to me as a testing method (including my own studies – in physics, we solved plenty of written exercises, but never had to endure a multi-hour exam). i would much prefer a mixture of essay and group presentation.