Weekly Head Voices #10: Loose bits sink chips.


You might have thought that my Weekly Head Voices were a thing of the past, but I unfortunately have to disappoint you yet again. The weekly head voices will continue in 2010, in spite of slip-ups like this one, where I’m going to have to stuff three weeks of inconsequentialities into the room usually reserved for a single week of inconsequentialities. Whatever the case may be, welcome to this edition, covering weeks 1, 2 and 3 of 2010!

A fine day in beautiful Bergen, on our way to have lunch.

A fine day in beautiful Bergen, on our way to have lunch.

In week 1, I had the privilege of visiting the University of Bergen in Norway, where I opposed the defence of Jean-Paul Balabanian, now the proud owner of a successfully defended PhD thesis on integrated view visualisation. Dr. Balabanian proposed, based on a number of solid publications, that integrated views, i.e. the idea of creating a single visualisation combining a number of different conceptual views instead of making use of separate coupled views, is in many cases more effective. Making the acquaintance of Prof. Christof Rezk-Salama, my co-opponent, was an added bonus on top of catching up with the Bergen crew.

On the Big Brother front, I have started using the Dutch OV chipkaart also for travelling by train. The OV chipkaart is a single smart card with which one will eventually be able to pay for all shapes and forms of public transport in the Netherlands. The cool thing is that one can in theory travel more efficiently as no tickets have to be bought. As one is diving through the closing doors of the train, one waves the card past a conveniently placed reader and the system records the station whilst also deducting a deposit. As one leaves the train at one’s destination, in a slightly more relaxed fashion, one elegantly waves the card past yet another conveniently placed reader, thus checking out and having the unused part of the deposit transferred back to the card.

This usually, surprisingly, works. The other day however, my diving through the closing train doors resulted in the waving not being properly registered, resulting in my NOT checking IN and hence mistakenly checking IN at my destination, instead of OUT (it’s the same card reader). Checking out immediately in order to undo the whole operation was problematic, as the system kept claiming that I was already checked in. Whoops. Much later, i.e. after I had lost my deposit, it turned out that one has to wait for 2 minutes before being able to check out again. Remember that kids, remember that. You can buy me a deposit’s worth of beers when we see each other again.

My SO now owns a brand-new iPhone 3GS. It is indeed a beautiful thing, but the beauty unfortunately does not make up for the on-screen keyboard, or rather the lack of hardware qwerty keyboard. This has made me rethink my plans to get the similarly keyboardless Google Nexus One when it’s officially released over here. I’ll wait for the first Nexus One-class phone with a good keyboard. Reviews have unfortunately not been kind with regard to the Motorola / Droid keyboard, so I’m going to skip that one.  (There is that other nagging little issue that it looks like a brick. A brick with a slide-out sub-standard keyboard. It is indeed a very smooth brick. If one were to build a house with it, it would indeed be a very special house, if a tad expensive.)

On the work front, I have two bits of incredibly good news:

  • After spending significant time on finishing my teaching portfolio (just call it a mini-thesis) last year, I am now the proud owner of a TU Delft BKO, which means that I’m qualified to teach at University level, using all kinds of new-fangled learning methods. Note that I said “learning” and not “teaching”. This means I’m hip. If you see me lying outside under a tree with one of my classes, you know we’re Learning, with a capital L.
  • Our STW NIG proposal “Novel pre-operative planning and intra-operative guidance system for shoulder replacement surgery” has been approved! We now have enough money to pay two people for 4 years to work on our Top Secret NEW Idea for surgical guidance. This proposal was written together with colleagues from the LUMC Department of Orthopaedics.

On the same front, I made the depressing mistake of calculating my h-index the other day.  Publish or Perish, great little tool that it is, has difficulty with my very common surname, plus that it misses some of my oldest publications that have the highest number of citations, and Scopus is just too durn stingy, so I rolled my own quick and dirty hack that parses Google Scholar with BeautifulSoup, based on a RIS-format list of my publications. Whatever the case may be, the outcome was mildly discouraging. I believe the “h” in h-index stands for “HARSH”. Harsh man!

In the meantime, I’ve mostly recovered by remembering (or rather being reminded by the observant folk around me) that I started doing what I do not to work on my probably doomed h-index, but to learn and to create. This indeed still makes me happy.