And here are some blog entries on the topic of plagiarism - surely to be a growth item...

Other topical lists:
Home Girl - Didaktics - Wiki - Book reviews - Observations - 'Puter Stuff

Wiki Rants

Anything with a wiki reference:

Other topical lists:

Home Girl - Didaktics - Plagiarism - Book reviews - Observations - 'Puter Stuff

Home Girl Life

Now this is the list of rants on a more personal nature. It includes the recipe stuff, and the fish, not to mention all the rants about Germany.

The citizenship rants:
My father-in-law's last month:
Other link lists : Didaktics - WikiRants - Plagiarism - Book Reviews - Observations - 'Puter Stuff


Jakob Nielson is so right - the timeline archive for a blog just sucks. I need to have a thematic archive, but blogger does not have such a beast. So I will fix this by adding some posts that will eventually hit the archives, but will have nice URLS, that I can then stick in the templates. This one links to rants on didaktics. More to follow!

Other topical links:
Home girl life - Wikis - Plagiarism - Book Reviews - Observations - 'Puter Stuff

White Christmas 2005

I guess that's the reason they celebrate the Feast of St. Stephan's as the second day of Christmas in Europe - more chance to have a white Christmas!

The rain turned to snow on Dec. 26 - just a few centimeters at first, then a storm came over and dumped about
15 cm. I shovelled the walk and then made a big, fat angel in the snow - haven't done that for years. Wanted to shock my guys at breakfast when they looked out the window. But we got another 10 cm of snow over night, so the walk was snowed in again and my angel had disappeared.

I walked to town to get the paper and some rolls, it is just 20 minutes walk and I would have needed twice that to shovel out and de-ice the car. It was a winter wonderland, the trees laden with clean snow. I ate lots of it off the trees on the way down! The sky was leaden, but laced with tones of red. All of a sudden it seemed that the clouds had dropped out of the sky, and it began to snow - first little hailstones, then big fat snowflakes. The air was so clean and cold, it felt really wonderful.

The coffee tasted double good when I got home! We then shoveled out the car and drove to Lund - in a snowstorm. The car swerved merrily around each corner, giving the ESP, or EPS, or whatever the fancy electronic anti-swerving device is called, some exercise. The highway was not cleared, so we had a little caravan of cars, slowly making their way along. About halfway to Lund the snow stopped and the sun came out gleaming - exactly what one expects for a white Christmas!

We made it to Lund and did some shopping before watching Narnia. We started a tradition with a friend, watching the LOTR films every Christmas in Ystad. So we decided to make do with Narnia, but after the film a hard discussion broke out as to whether this film or the latest Harry Potter film was worst. We decided to go to the movies again next year, but it will not be a family fantasy film. Hope the film industry produces something more to our liking.


Julotta 2005

I decided to actually attend a Julotta this morning. I had attended one maybe 15 years ago, crossing a lake by spark up in Dalarna with a friend to get there. This morning I "just" had to take the car to town, 7 km away. Upon getting up at 6 for the 7 am service I decided I had to skip breakfast - it was 2 degrees under zero and the car was coated in ice!

Getting inside the car was a challange - it had rained all day Christmas Eve and the doors were frozen shut. I managed to jimmey the hatchback open, and could crawl into the station wagon end, but of course I still had the net installed so the car could be packed full of stuff. I had to remove the netting and get the back seats moved down with frozen fingers, and then was able to throw my weight against the door to get it opened. Had to repeat this twice, once for the back seat and once for the front seat.

I spent 20 minutes scraping away the ice with a broken ice scraper. I made a mental note to splurge on a new one and made it to town with just a few minutes to spare. I parked near 3 other cars thinking well, now we are 4, maybe even 7 people. I opened the big door of the church - to a crush of humanity! Would you believe, there were all sorts of people, some even younger than me, who actually got up for 7am in the morning! Okay, every year it is getting easier to be younger than me, but I still normally manage to drastically lower the average age of the service I am attending.

Well, this should be some service! But the priest-of-the-day was the old drone, he can really put you to sleep with his monotone voice. I had hoped on something like the Danish church had promised, all about the foreigners discussion, but it was just something Christmasy. I don't understand how the rest of the people stayed awake! But maybe it was the expectation of going home that kept them awake - coming out of the church to a breaking, icy dawn was quite breathtaking. The sky was painted a light blue streaked with many red tones, the trees were dusted with frost. I took a right instead of a left and took the long way home, just to relish these gorgeous moments - with nary a car in sight. Maybe this is why the people get up so early on Christmas Morning.

Ha en god forsättning på helgen!


Wikipedia: A buddy, not Britannica!

During a discussion with two diploma students today about the recent Wikipedia "scandal" one of the students noted that the analogy that people are using is completely wrong. Wikipedia should not be compared with printed encyclopedias such as the Britannica, although they may be striving to get there some day. What the Wikipedia gives you in the way of an answer is about what you would get if you called across to a colleague in the next cubicle or called a friend on the phone and asked them, "Say, do you know what X is?".

The only difference is that with Wikipedia, you have 600.000 or maybe 700.000 friends out there, ready to answer your question at a moment's notice. You know that this may not be the authoritative answer, but it is pretty good for starters.


Julklapp 2005

My handball team was celebrating the annual Christmas party after our terrible 20:4 loss against SCC. This is my first year with the team, so it was my first participation. Lucky me, I missed out on some of the annual presents that make the rounds every year. Apparently Helga found the wall hanging useful for keeping out the draughts in her cabin in Sweden, so that has disappeared. Petra got the porcelin bird, as well as a big stone and a little camping chair.

I was complaining about my present to a friend, who wrote:

"Julklapp is funny, you always get stuff you don't need ;) or that is toooo horrible to use ;) "

I think it was Steffi that made this present for me, she had such an angelic look on her face when I unwrapped the mess - a big box containing:

1) stupid, large, green and purple cloth floral arrangement
2) a crocheted, glittery bag for keeping kleenex in (probably so you can clean up after puking about the flowers)
3) two wooden pegs for juggling
4) a Santa Clause baggy with a bag of gummi bears and two little bottles of horrible sweet schnapps.

The schnapps might please a guest. The gummi bears will be in my office for students until they disappear. The plant will look lovely next to my plastic, animated, talking George Bush doll. I shall have to redecorate, though, and move the stones and shells somewhere else, anything natural will clash with the plant.

I mean, I actually donated something, well, useful to the Julklapp effort: a two-piece china bear that when you take it apart, makes into an egg cup and a salt shaker. Oh yes, it is green. Somehow, green is not the color to be looking at in the mornings, that's why it's been on the shelf for years, I forget who gave it to me. May have been a Julklapp.


Scorched Pumpkin Pie

It's that time of year again. Hallowe'en. Punkin' time. My father-in-law had some wonderful pumpkins, just like he has had for the past decades, just for me. Of course, having a teenager in the house means that no one is interested in making a jack-o'-lantern any more. He just wants to watch the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" on DVD....

So what else do you do with a pumpkin? Germans like to pickle bits of pumpkin, my friend John makes a spaghetti with sliced pumpkin fried in garlic (it is really delicious!), and oh yes, there is pumpkin pie! Of course the recipe just states "1 can pumpkin". No such thing on the shelves over at Kaiser's. Yes, I know. KaDeWe has canned pumpkin. 4,95 € a can (used to be 4,95 DM). At that price, I make myself.

So "all" I have to do is cook down the pumpkin. I do this every year. I think: this year I will do it without spritzing pumpkin all over the kitchen. Something always goes wrong.

The first two batches in the pressure cooker were fine. Peel the pumpkin, remove all the yucky inner stuff (save and pull out the seeds!), cube and stuff in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Then drain. And drain. And drain some more. I swear, pumpkins consist of 75% water....

So here I was, feeling like a real pro. Had 4 cups of mashed pumpkin already produced and was on the last batch. However, I managed to not close the pressure cooker right. After I wondered why it wasn't spitting at me, I re-fit the lid and let the pressure cooker get to work. I unfortunately decided to pass the time doing email/Skype/surfing. I didn't need to prepare pumpkin for the next batch. My olfactory organ let me know that something was amiss.

Yep. Scorched Pumpkin.

Yuck. I was able to save a cup or so from the middle, the rest was already carmelized (there is some sugar in the pumpkin). I remembered that my Mom had this recipe for "scorched pumpkin pie", that is, you first deliberately scorch the pumpkin, then you continue. Since I had a nice mess of scorched pumpkin, I dug for the recipe and set in.

Lillis Weber’s Scorched Pumpkin Pie (9“ pie) (1965)

1 ½ cups purée pumpkin
2 eggs
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup evaporated milk
½ tsp ginger
¾ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp boiling water
½ tsp salt
¼ cup 12% cream

Set oven to 450° F. Cook pumpkin over direct heat, stirring until it is dried out and slightly caramelized (scorched but not burned). Remove from heat. Beat eggs, stir in sugar, milk, spices (blended to a paste with the hot water). Stir in pumpkin, salt & cream until well blended. Bake 15 min., then reduce heat to 300° (open oven to drop temp rapidly) and bake 25 min. longer. [Needs longer if you don’t scorch the pumpkin enough - dww]

A 40-year old recipe! And you know, I have tried this before (cf. the nasty comment I wrote on the card). But I never had the patience to scorch the pumpkin enough. Now, with a pot of scorched pumpkin, I just had to add the rest of the ingredients and bake.

The lickings were great. The pie smelled absolutely wonderful. My mouth is watering. Lucky Achim, gets the pie as a birthday present tomorrow (if I can keep the teenager and his goony friends off of it). I hope to get at least a sliver for myself ......


You mean that is not a learning goal?

I was at the GMW05/DelFI2005 conference in Rostock and primed for a fight. I am sick and tired of all this "learning objects" nonsense, I was determined to ask hard questions of every speaker.

One speaker gave a very detailed and involved desription of their XML-based Learning Object system for "generating learning units". Yeah. (description below disguised to protect the guilty). On the screen it was plain to see:


("Learnziel" is learning goal or objective in German).

I raised my hand and said that I was confused. How could just "Mitochondria" be a learning goal? I would expect things like "knows a definition of mitochondria", "can draw a picture of a mitochondria", "can name the parts of a mitochondria" or even "can isolate mitochondria from cells" to be a learning goal. But not just a noun! The author did not understand my question....

In the coffee break two grad students approached me. They noted that they had always been told that the learning objective was the topic covered in the "learning object". They are working in eLearning, but had never thought about this before. I explained Bloom's taxonomy to them. They were enthralled. Had never heard it, but thought it made enormous sense. Noted that this taxonomy did not fit with what they were currently researching....

Computing people act like they invented didactics when it comes to eLearning. Big surprise: there is a lot that has previously been written. And no, most of the texts are not on the Internet.....


The Election Secret

Since I am now a German (and voted in my first federal election Sept. 18), I also volunteered for election service. I really like organizing and counting things - but man, this was very tiring, concentrating on checking identies all day. Seems as soon as I decided to check whether the identity documents were valid, I found some that ran out long ago. My colleague found it was not a problem, but I decided to at least make the people uncomfortable, they should get themselves new identity documents pronto - not the least reason being the new biometric junk to be added to them from Nov. 1.

There was a lot of problems about the question of the elections being secret - many people wanted to take their kids into the voting booth with them. But that is not allowed, so we had to prevent people from doing so. One woman flew into a viscious rage and threatened to call the police after she voted and then hung around behind the voting booth letting her kid play with all the toys that were there (we were in a kindergarten and had tried to block off the toys, but they just climbed over and crawled under). Goodness, I see that the boy is a handful, but you needn't take it out on the volunteers running the voting show.

Many men - husbands, sons, fathers - of veiled women were quite uneasy having their womanfolk voting without them watching. The couple that has stuck in my mind, however, was a German couple. He took both ballots and was marching off to the booth with her. We insisted that they separate. He handed her her ballot, pointed to the "CDU" box and told her - here, that's what you vote. They each went behing their own booth, he was done very quickly (need we guess what he voted?). She took her time, and when she came out she had this slight Mona-Lisa-like smile on her face. She then put her ballot in the box with a triumphant little pat. How I would have liked to know what this woman voted!! I hope she voted for any other candidate than the one her husband told her to!


Three Objections to Learning Objects

I was actually on my way to bed last night when I discovered someone (Mike) had started a Learning Object entry in the German Wikipedia (Lernobjekt). As his source he gave a studen't term paper on LOs, repeating all the rubbish that is published about LOs.

LOs are just what compter scientists think learning is all about, because their extremely narrow view of the Real World (tm) consists of just seeing technology, not human beings. Learning is percieved as being the consumption of digital tidbits, preferably sugar-coated ones. There is almost no understanding of the didactics and pedagogy that take place in a learning situation, or that learning is quite different in primary, secondary, teriary, and continuing education. For all the nonsense written about it, there is now way to specify mathematically who a learner is or how she learns or what she needs to know. Luckily - we are, actually, human beings and not bots.

So at midnight I changed all the "is" verbs to "is said to be", added some doubt and one reference, and then started in this morning bright and early looking in earnest for more references. I found Brian Lamb's "Oh No! Yet Another Learning Objects Presentation" which links to Norm Friesen's "Three Objections to Learning Objects".

This is a wonderful paper, published in the non-virtual world at McGreal, R. (Ed.). 2004. Online Education Using Learning Objects. London: Routledge. Pp. 59-70. It includes many good quotes from other obscure but dead-on right papers. Let me summarize his objections:

Objection 1: What's a learning object, anyway?

He is so right - if you collect up all the definitions of LOs and put them together, you get everything but the kitchen sink, kind of like EMACS.

Objection 2: Where is the Learning in E-Learning Standards?

My usual crack is that standards are so important because there are so many of them. Not everyone gets the joke. I had a thesis student try and use SCORM to export eLearning material from one learning management system and then import it to another one, both purportedly SCORM compliant. She failed, although her efforts were valiant. I did not tell her that I didn't think it would work. I wanted to see someone who believes that this will work because it is a standard, after all, test it. It could just be cranky me that thinks that SCORM is useless. Of course, maybe she missed just the right place to set a check or she was holding her tongue wrong. But if someone who has studied computer science successfully is not able to make it jump through hoops, how is the social studies teacher going to make out?

Objection 3: Education in a Militarized Zone?

Learning objects and e-learning standardization bear the imprint of the ideology and culture of the American military-industrial complex" - this is exactly a feminist objection to a lot of what passes for science in computing. Here we have "learning" being reduced to learning the one true correct way of pulling the trigger, if you will. A soldier is trained to be interchangable, to follow orders without thinking. Education, on the other hand, is supposed to traing people to think critically. Okay, maybe I am old-fashioned, but I want people to learn to sift the evidence and think for themselves, that is the point of what I do.

I love Plutarch's description of education:

"We must encourage [each other] - once we have grasped the basic points - to interconnecting everything else on our own, to use memory to guide our original thinking, and to accept what someone else says as a starting point, a seed to be nourished and grow. For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting - no more - and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth. Suppose someone were to go and ask his neighbors for fire and find a substantial blaze there, and just stay there continually warming himself: that is no different from someone who goes to someone else to get to some of his rationality, and fails to realize that he ought to ignite his own flame, his own intellect, but is happy to sit entranced by the lecture, and the words trigger only associative thinking and bring, as it were, only a flush to his cheeks and a glow to his limbs; but he has not dispelled or dispersed, in the warm light of philosophy, the internal dank gloom of his mind ."

Thanks for the paper, Norm. I shall quote it all of next week at the GMW2005 conference. Maybe I will print out copies to hand out. I am planning on attending all the Learning Objects sessions and asking each speaker if they have empirical evidence of their claims of reuse and lower costs and better education. What a bitch I am!


An Experiment on the Reuse of Learning Objects

I've been ranting for ages about the horrors of Learning Objects to anyone who would stand still long enough and listen to me. I had written a paper with a friend about the eLearning module that I produced and which we both have used, and we did not use the term because we both think this is hogwash and concentrated on collaboration.

The referees complained: we had not referenced state-of-the-art literature and we should have made proper learning objects. I went off like a rocket and started madly collecting published stuff on the dangers of learning objects. There is not much, but some at least. When I calmed down I managed to put together a pretty nice explaination, I thought, of why I find it rubbish, in a rather scientific manner.

The referee found it better that I said something, but continued on that Meta Data were the basis for reuse, etc. I immediately conducted a reuse experiment with the repository in question (which shall be nameless, this is not the point of my argument to discredit their particular repository, but to question the entire religion of learning objects).

The reviewer writes: "Metadata, if filled in properly, can be very beneficial for finding suitable material."

I responded: "I would love to see a paper on this - I have asked at every presentation I have ever attended that was given on the topic of learning objects if they are aware of any research into the actual reusability of metadata decorated objects. I always get a no for an answer. Any system presentation that I have visited and wanted to actually look for something using meta data has not actually had the searching implemented "yet". I strongly beleive that meta data is great - if done right, the way that libraries have been doing meta data for over 400 years now. That might be another paper to write....

I will be at the Metadata session in Rostock (GMW) with the expressed purpose of shaking a real example of reuse out of someone - or I will really have to write something about it! "

I had criticized the repository as only containing 23 objects, anyway.

The reviewer commented: "The numbers given for the XXX project are not correct. The repository actually contains a much larger number of learning objects than only 23. "

Okay, time to fight back. I now added up the numbers in parenthesis behind the 23 objects, assuming that this is the number of subobjects. I now get 57, which is still not a lot to crow about. I have changed the wording to be "less than 100".

Since I am teaching SE this semester, I decided that I would test the search capabilities on the meta data for the objects in the repository. Let's see, I need something nice about life-cycles for the first lecture. The search form offers me all sorts of fields (in German) that make no real sense to me. I don't know what they mean or how they were filled out. The first search should be over all fields, not just inside one particular field, this is something we learned in library OPACs long ago (I spent 4 years of my life developing software for libraries).

Bezeichner: Life cycle? 0 hits. Maybe German? Lebenszyklus? 0
Titel: ditto
Beschreibung: ditto
Klassifizierung: hmm, no life cycle. There's an entry on "Software Engineering General" that at least brings up a few entries, so the search really does find something occasionally. The names are not really promising, but "Introduction to SE" looks good - oh, just some Powerpoint slides. Somehow, I have never seen a Powerpoint slide as a learning object, but more of a reminder slip as to what was said in the lecture (or written in the book).

The download is a Zip file with a Powerpoints in a file name containing Umlauts that have now been mangled, an XML Manifest and a license. The manifest tells me a lot I don't want to know, and that this is an introduction. But it does not tell me if the introduction contains a life cycle model....

Hmm, the XML lists Mr. E as the author. But the slides say: Dr. W. / University of B. The properties in Powerpoint have a nickname / University of P. Oh oh, the slides contain a Dilbert cartoon that expressly states: "Redistribution in whole or part prohibited". If you purchase a Dilbert it will state so. So now, not only have I not found anything, I have just uncovered a copyright problem that needs fixing. But who do I inform? Oh, and no slides on life cycles in here.

Going through the learning objects (there aren't really that many) I find "LE 3.1 Prozessqualität" which actually has the V-model. That's something I might find useful. This was only findable because there
are not many learning objects in the repository.

See what I mean? Despite all of the meta data that has been assessed, I still can't find stuff that is actually there, because the classification by metadata does not use a thesaurus and a category hierarchy.



The King is *definately* naked!

Teemu Leinonen notes in his blog that Learning objects are rather naked kings. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Learning objects have been grating on my nerves for quite some time now. I replied to him:

Amen! I heartily agree! I was at a seminar given by Cecile Crutzen whereby she explained why I feel so ill when I hear the term "learning object". (I was trained a software engineer and now develop e-learning materials, among other duties as a professor). The whole idea of the "learning" him or herself being an object that consumes "learning objects" to attain wisdom is seriously flawed for a number of reasons.

1) Learning is not about consuming knowledge nuggets. It is about discourse on and reflection about topics. Informal learning the new buzz word, anyway, may it completely override "LOB". Collaboration is king in learning, not a bunch of objects.

2) Learning materials have to be orchestrated or designed so that they are coherent, otherwise they make no sense. Not everyone uses the same notation and definitions, the same style of writing. So stringing objects together makes no sense.

3) The *subject*, the learner, has been compelety dropped from the discussion! This pseudo-objectivity (pun intended) means that we completely ignore the person who is to learn something, which should be the starting point of any instruction!

and on and on.

I have made it a point at every conference and presentation where someone rabbits on about learning objects and metadata to ask a pointed question: Do you have any data on the reuse factor of your learning objects. Not one single person, from the big-shots on down, has been able to answer anything but "no" to my question. Just recently I suffered an afternoon of a system presentation where you elaborately entered in metadata, but when you wanted to reuse something, you needed to have a good file name and a good file structure to find the stuff because the meta data was NOT searchable! In addition, the pictures KEPT their numbers, if they even bothered to have them ("Figure 2"), there was no way to renumber them.

Naked. And freezing.
Since his blog somehow does not post my wise words, I repeat them here. Any references to criticisms of learning objects are heartily welcomed.


The Virtual Conference - Wikimania

The Wikimania Conference 2005 was held in Frankfurt this past weekend. Unfortunately, I could not be physically present in Frankfurt. Fortunately, the folks at freematrix had set up an Internet Radio feed so that those of us who at least had an Internet connection could listen in to some of the talks.

Friday was extremely interesting because I had the radio feed running and mIRC open to #de.wikipedia and spent the time discussing what was being said during the talks with some folks that were on the channel. There was a bit of a cognitive dissonance associated with listening in English and writing in German, but it was a very interesting experience. I even was able to post a question by proxy (Thanks, Appleboy!), someone physically in the room and on IRC at the same time!

But of course, you missed the chatting during the coffee breaks. I was especially irritated at a questioner at the end of the third round stated that he thought the fine-grained censorship exercised now in China was "good" because it let so much other "good stuff" get through the filters instead of blocking the Wikipedia completely. WHAT? There is no such thing as "just a little bit of censorship". Either there is censorship or there is none. What if the little bit that got caught in the filters was everything he ever wrote? If they pretended he did not exist? Is he still happy? I would have loved to a) know who this was and b) give him a piece of my mind on the topic of censorship. But as it was, I just bleated on the chat.

Saturday was flakey - I had the choice of mIRC or freematrix. The folks on IRC noted that mIRC was a piece of §$%& and suggested many alternatives, none which I felt like installing at the spur of the moment, in addition to which I paid the fee for mIRC so I will use it, darn it! So I decided to stick with freematrix. They had a chat page connected to their IRC forum, this was great for letting the operators of freematrix know that a feed had died and one of them would willingly go kickstart a server which had gone to sleep or defaulted to off.

I got to hear three keynotes:
* Ross Mayfield explaining to me why I was drowning in email and that I really need a Wiki (he's right!)
* Ward Cunningham musing on the history of Wikis. I especially liked hearing the stories and how HyperCard fit into all of this - I teach HyperCard as an oddity precursor to the WWW in my Hypermedia course, lovely to have a nice story about how it was useful for the creation of Wikis!
* Richard M. Stallmann - what shall I say, if I could have made it to Frankfurt, I would have gone just to hear RMS, seeing as how I spent 7 years of my life living in EMACS, programming in a LISP-like language. His thoughts on intellectual property are, of course, radical. It was great that his talk was so nicely structured (he must have held it a million times already) that I could easily follow, even without the slides. I don't agree with everything he says, but I think I understand his reasoning a lot more now.

At the final session the Global Voices Session, there were many interesting tidbits to be heard. It was funny that this session seemed just as important to me as Stallmann's - but one of the people asking a question noted that it was a shame that there were so few people in the room. It was interesting that my perception of the talk was not colored by the fact of me choosing a not-so-popular topic or some such, but I just chose on interest.

Anyway, thanks to the freematrix team, that was lovely! You don't have a donations possibility on your pages, that needs fixing.... And the discussions in #de.wikipedia during or after the talks were so enjoyable, I felt that I had really attended a conference, even if it was only a virtual one and I don't have a name tag for my collection...


A Fishy Summer

Gosh, school summer vacation is already over, time sure flies! I spent a good portion of vacation with my husband and teen-age son and a good friend and his three teen-age sons. Just like at work, me and a bunch of boys...

The guys took a bicycle trip from Berlin to Sweden (470 km!), I played team support for the last part of the trip, driving around a car full of tents, sleeping bags, food, and wet clothes. It was actually kind of fun, the very best picnic being the one I set up in V. Sallerup, halfway between Trelleborg and Ystad. We had just picked the place on the map on account of it being half-way and there was a church there, which is easy to find. There was a lovely lawn just outside of the church with a Viking stone engraving set up, so I put out the red checkered tablecloth, loaded it up with food, put out a blanket and sat down to "enjoy" the emails I had just downloaded from an open hotspot in Trelleborg. You have 312 emails!

The sun was shining a gentle breeze was blowing, and the guys really tucked into the food when they arrived. Riding a bike along the seaside seems to make them hungrier than they normally are!

By the time we got to our cabin the weather had turned to cloudy and rainy. To stave off the screams of boredom our friend bravely volunteered to accompany the boys to go fishing. They biked to a store, bought 2 fishing poles, purchased a weekly fishing permit for the Kvesarumsjön, and off they went! Peace. Quiet. Able to read.

They were gone for almost 8 hours! When they came home, they had a bucket filled with little roach fish! And they were so excited and wanted to eat the fish, but were squeamish about fixing them. But that's what we have a Mom for, so she got our her knives, chipped off the scales, and cleaned 20 little fish. Just a little strip of fish from each side of the fish, really.

They wanted fish fingers, so we breaded up the bits, fried them (had to use cornmeal because there wer no bread crumbs to be had in the house!), and they enjoyed it!

The next day, they went out again, and came back again with a mess of fish. Mom insisted on help this time, so it was a communal thing. Not that it was fun or anything, but at least it wasn't all my work. Note the oldest teenager "working" in the background learning to play Kubb.....

No one wanted to eat fish again, so I put the filets on a cookie sheet and shoved them in the freezer.

The next day, they went fishing AGAIN. And caught a bucket full of fish AGAIN. And came home just as a thunderstorm descended on the village, dumping 62 mm of water per square meter in just a few hours. No, Mom did not want to clean fish in a thunderstorm, and not in her kitchen either. So the bucket stayed outside. During the night I heard strange noises - the village cats had found the bucket and were doing a lot of fishing.... we found cat vomit the next morning with lots of fins and fish eyes and stuff in it.... So the fishing dad got assigned burial duty, he went off to the forest and buried the mess.

You would think that this was enough fish, but no, the last day at the cabin was sunny and warm for a change. We decided to fire up the grill. My husband and I went into town to see if we could scare up some grilling meat and some charcol, and the guys said they would get "some fish". Yeah, sure, but be back in 2 hours.

We were working on fanning the fire when the hoarde returned - yep, with a bucket of fish. 13 (count 'em) roach (mört) and 4 carp bream (braxen). And of course, they want the bream grilled. At least that seemed like a good sized fish!

But oh, trying to clean those fish was terrible - hard to cut, millions of bones, and I sure didn't get all of them. In the middle of cleaning the fish the skies darkened and it began to pour. As long as there wasn't lightening and since I was dirty anyway, I just sat outside and cleaned fish in the rain while my husband practiced underwater grilling (a roof on the grill works wonders). We grilled the fish, which fell apart into a million pieces on attempting to remove from the pan. Oh well, it was delicious! The bream was plenty, so I froze the rest of the roach, we have more than enough for a fish dinner some day. Hope the electricity holds up, or we will be having one smelly cabin...

I don't think that I want to have any fish for the next few weeks....


Embarassing advertising

Google Ads are a great thing, right? You get to use their search engine, and they pay you for using it because they insert ads before the search results appear. Other search companies are jumping on the band wagon, too, because it seems like free money.

But: what if the ads presented are, well, embarassing?

Try this one for yourself: Go to the TU Darmstadt, Department of Computing. You want to know all about getting a doctorate at this fine university, so you look for the "Promotionsordnung", the rules for doing a dissertation. The navigation is a mess, so you go to the search box. Oh, the search box is gone because too many people were laughing about this. No problem, the link is still valid. Don't try the German one, because that one was killed when this was first reported, but there is an English search page. Type in "Promotionsordnung" and see what you get - nope, no hits, but advertising for shady companies "helping" you to obtain your doctorate for a slight fee...

Just in case it disappears again: Entry two is:

Der schnelle Weg zum legalen und anerkannten Dr.-Titel in D & Europa

Translation: Doctorate degree - the quick way to a legal and accepted doctorate in Germany and Europe

What this service actually does is find a poor, starving Eastern European School that will, for a fee, accept doctoral students. (Addendum 2005-08-25: Seems there are German Professors willing to help out for a fee, too - Spiegel Online, 26. August 2005, "Doktortitel gegen Geld")

You can find the deep link by reading the source code of the page - the search field is just commented out.

I have a screen shot, should this ever rightly disappear.

Moral: there is no such thing as a free lunch. Some come with embarassing side-effects.


How German it is

So now I am German. It is official. It says so on the nice certificate I picked up this morning and on the temporary ID card I was issued. It was just another administrative task. Get up, have breakfast, brush your teeth, fill out some more papers, pay some money, get your citizenship, go shopping, get the mail, make dinner.

"Did you do anything special, today, honey?" "Oh, I'm now a citizen of Germany". "That's nice, pass the salt".

No ceremony, the lady at the desk for the IDs just wanted to see my "abgesiegeltes Passbild" and kept a dour expression on her face the entire time. They must have training for this at adminstrative school. How to keep a scowl on your face for the entire transaction. No "Welcome!", no fanfare, no Lord Mayor with a handshake. Okay, the Beamte handing me my certificate gave me a handshake. But that was it.

So I had to do something, and thus I went out and bought a dirndl (a decent one, no colored flowers and no apron, although an apron would look nice with this) and wore it this evening. No one wanted to dance polka with me, but at least the friends helping me empty two bottles of bubbly said "Welcome". Well, to be honest, one said "My deepest sympathy" and another one said "I hope you know what you are doing". Really comforting, guys.


Fake Conferences

I am quite enthralled by the work of Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn, and Dan Aguayo with their project SCIgen - An Automatic CS Paper Generator. They had a generated paper accepted at WMSCI 2005. There has been a lot of fuss about this, whether it was legit to so such a thing, or if it was okay because the conference is a fake one anyway. I got many introductions to submit papers to this conference (at different locations) and has it on my list of "fishy stuff" to look at some day. Now that the discussion is going on in earnest, I am corresponding with someone who had a paper accepted and does not think the conference is a fake.

So I've been doing research instead of grading papers, and began wondering who this Nagib Callaos fellow is.

Anthony Liekens has a fake conferences page discussing it, Greg Elin looked at Callaos publication record - one paper. I also found some proceedings that he edited. Callaos is listed in the paper as president of the Venezuelan chapter of the IEEE/Computer Society. Okay, that's the IEEE connection. His dissertation sounds strange, I wanted to have a closer look, but both the OPACs of the National Library of Venezuela and of the University Simon Bolivar seem to be down at the moment.

Out of interest I checked the conferences I could find with Callaos as chair: SCI 1997 (Caracas), SCI1998/ISAS1998 (Orlando), ISAS 1999 (Orlando), SCI2000 IEEE (Orlando), ISAS'2000 (Orlando), SCI 2001 IEEE (Orlando), SCI 2002, SCI 2003 (Orlando), WMSCI (Orlando), WMSCI 2005 (Orlando, Belgrade).

The Sheraton in Orlando must *love* this guy! His organization has a site (http://www.iiis.org/) but that appears to be hacked (check out http://www.iiis.org/isas/).

There are also some "Asilomar Conversations" going back to 1989 (http://www.nhpress.com/isi/lib/proceedings.html) . Hey, here's something: Callaos, N., 1995, Metodología Sistémica de Sistemas, trabajo de ascenso a titular de la Universidad simón Bolivar, Caracas, Cap. 18, p. 649. Hmm. "Trabajo de ascenso", Work of ascent - to what title? I must profess my ignorance here. I googled through the sponsors of the 1998 ISAS and then the sponsors of the 2005 event - they have pretty much stayed the same. Let's run down the current list:

  • WOSC: World Organization on Systemics and Cybernetics (France)
    I can only find this on diverse calls for papers over the past 10 years
  • The Center for Systems Studies (UK)
    Hull University, Director is Jennifer Wilby
  • Systems Society of Poland
    Does not exist. I find a page with a link
    which delivers a 404. But it sure sponsers a lot of conferences!
  • Society Applied Systems Research (Canada)
    Hmm. Maybe this is The International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics (Canada)? http://www.iias.edu/. Their main job seems to be sponsering conferences
  • Slovenian Artificial Intelligence Society
    They hold conferences, too, but here you submit your camera-ready copy before the registration is due...
  • Pole System Society (Poland)
    Same as above, can't find it.
  • Italian Society of Systemics
    Nada. But they sponser a lot of conferences together with the Polish System Society.
  • ISSS: International Society for the Systems Sciences (USA)
    They organize conferences, too: http://www.isss.org/conferences/cancun2005/callforpapers.html
    "The conference registration form and fees are also due with the abstract submission. The payment will be refunded if the abstract is not accepted." Hmm. I've submitted lots of papers that were rejected and I still attended the conference....
  • ISI: The International Systems Institute (USA)
  • IFSR: International Federation of Systems Research (Austria/USA)
    http://www.ifsr.org/, the board meets biannually. The page is rather full of mundane stuff, may be legit, may not be.
  • Cybernetics and Human Knowing: A Journal of Second Order Cybernetics and Cybersemiotics (Denmark)
    I can find a CYBERNETICS & HUMAN KNOWING A Journal of Second Order Cybernetics, Autopoiesis & Cyber-Semiotics. Lost some Autopoiesis there...(Definition from Wikipedia: "self-production". How fitting, how strange that it is missing.
  • Concurrency and Architecture Group, the Telematics Engineering Department of the University of Las Palmas of Gran Canaria (Spain).
    Sponsers a lot of conferences together with above groups, but I can't find such a department. There's a telecoms department, but they don't appear to have a concurrency group.
  • CUST, Engineer Science Institute of the Blaise Pascal University (France)
    A polytechnic in France http://cust.univ-bpclermont.fr/
  • The Tunisian Scientific Society (Tunisia).
    Hmm. I only find one in Canada. But their webpage is broken.
  • American Society for Cybernetics (Canada)
  • ANS (Academy of non-linear Sciences, RUSSIA)
  • University Politehnica of Bucharest, Department of Mathematics, and Balkan Society of Geometers (Romania)
    http://www.mathem.pub.ro/ and http://www.mathem.pub.ro/dept/bsg.htm
17 sponsors, of which I find 6 non-existant. Maybe I am just a bad googler.

The discussion with my email partner has centered on the topic of minority inclusion in research. It seems that you have to be a white person at a big-name school to get published. People with "foreign" names at little schools throughout the globe have to make their own conferences so that they have a chance to publish, and Callaos is the champion of the small guy.

Well, that is a thought, but I would feel better if I felt that these conferences were actually well-reviewed.

There are other fake conferences around, I attended one myself. I found it strange to be paying my fee together with the submission, but was happy the paper was accepted with no further criticism by the referees. I felt great! At the conference there were many people who did not show up, the talks were never held (one had paid and the proceedings were printed, what more did I want?), the venue was not really comfortable for all the money we paid. I had some nice discussions with people from small countries, but no really great talks. (Except my own, of course!).

I had another paper that a student had written with me - we wanted to have it published, so we used the same conference again, this time, he went and gave the talk. He reported on the same situation. I decided that it was unethical to continue to support this conference (which has the same General Chair year after year after year) and so I tear up their invitations when they arrive. They invited me to be invited speaker this year if I could pay my own airfare, they would let me sleep in the guest bed of one of the organizers. I declined. If I am invited speaker I want my travel expenses covered.

What is to be done about this situation?


Copy & Paste Culture

I'm so honored - I have been invited to the University of Linz in Austria to speak about plagiarism at a seminar on "Copy & Paste Culture". Plagiarism and unethical behavior in research seems to be running rampart these days.

I just got a link to a blog about a guy jerking around a woman who is using him as her ghostwriter [A week of kindness] . It is so utterly shocking to see this woman's complete disregard for what she is supposed to be in college for - to learn. She only cares about getting good grades and has made the dean's list. I sincerely hope that her professor discovers the plagiarism!

For readers of German, my own portal on plagiarism: http://plagiat.fhtw-berlin.de/


Broken Electronics

Our son needed a new mobile phone. Okay, he didn't *need* one, but he had fufilled the requirements we stipulated for getting a new one. We spent all afternoon, up and down the Schloßstr., and settled on one from LG. It said on the box "Infrared interface". This is important, as the old handy has all sorts of noise bits he wants to transfer to his new phone.

Got it home, unpacked ("Cool!"), charged, and tried to upload a sound. Nothing. Not with another phone, not with my PDA, not with a computer. Sigh. I hate electronics that don't work. So I started in on the handbook which makes the impression of having been translated from the Korean via Spanish to English. Infrared.... ah, here's a bit: Infrared only works with additional software and cable, which are not included.

Hello? Infrared cable? Infrared does not need a cable, it is a cable-less connection. I dug through the Internet, no avail. The next day we went back to the store (Schaulandt). No, all sales are final. If we wanted IR we should have purchased a more expensive phone. I point out that it says on the box that it has IR. Yes, well. Some phones only work together with other phones of the same kind. Sounds like a rip-off scheme to get people to send expensive MMS to each other.

So we send it in for "repairs". We fill out forms, and wait 3 weeks. Nothing happens. I call Schaulandt, it is always busy. The fax does not pick up. So I drag myself down, and lo and behold, the fax was out of paper
and was blocking the telefone line..... No sign of the phone, but they would call, we were to come backe the end of the next week. So we did, got the phone, it was recorded that the IR had been "repaired" - except that it did not work, just like it did 4 weeks ago.

So back we went to complain. The guy noted down my problems, and promised to call. Yeah, right. The amazing thing is: he did call and left a message on my answering machine! I called back, he had found some software updates. We tried this, no avail. He called again, he had found a new IR driver. We tried that, it did not work either. Extra points for calling, but the phone still did not work.

I got rather picky at this point, and lo and behold, we were able to return the phone. For cash back.


Now we still have to find another phone, and meanwhile we bought a new computer from Aldi and it, too, does not work. I think I am being followed by broken electronics....


A Modern Quilting Bee

The German Wikipedia is coming out on DVD in the near future, so it was time to get the thing polished up. A good DVD needs lots of indices, so it was decided that the 13 000+ personal entries in the Wikipedia needed entered into a category. What a job.

The publishing house that is printing the DVD, Digitalmedia, offered to host a tagging party. They would organize food, drink, and Internet connection, people could come by with laptops and tag together.

What a lot of fun! Sitting 3-4 at a table, using Apper's cool tagging tool, we were each busy with our own jobs, but were constantly talking. Talking about the strange people we encountered, about which names were last names, about intellectual property, about all sorts of stuff. We socialized, we enjoyed Club-Mate and Bionade and a whole crate of tangerines, and we knocked off tags by the dozen.

As in quilting bees of yore, all worked for the common good, chatting and eating together. It was nice to hear more about people one pretty much only knew from chats or briefly from the Stammtisch in Berlin. I hope we have a chance to repeat this, it was fun!


Stateless for real

The deed is done.

The US consulate played all sorts of cute games with me in the interim (see my blog entry "A Woman Without a Country"). Oh, you need this form. Didn't we send that to you? Call for an appointment. No, we can't talk to you on the phone without you sending in all the paperwork first. You are missing a paper. No appointments for the next 3 weeks.

But today was the day. The paperwork - an awesome pile of 20 documents (The informed consent page, the oath page, the renunciation of citizenship block of forms and the witness page, each with 5 copies) was prepared, typed and printed with today's date and each page embossed with a seal.

The vice consul read one to me, then he read one having me repeat it after him with my right hand raised (it was on a paper in front of me, I can *read*, you know). Having signed that one, I was officially stateless. I handed in my passport (which would have expired in March, I made good use of that!), the vice consul wished me luck in this new portion of my life (hey, I've lived here for 28 years!) and they got up to leave. I made a point of shaking hands all around a second time, remarking that I am a German now, I shake hands a lot.

It only took 15 minutes, and I was back at the gate collecting my 17 different electrical and battery-operated and deadly devices that I had to check with the guard. They didn't take my Swiss Army Office from me, a little pen knife with a USB stick in it, or my metal toothpick that I once had to forfeit on a flight. I am pretty sure the whole visitation stuff is a fake.

Back out in the cold and snow I asked myself: do you feel any different now? The answer is no. Just like having a birthday, it is something that just happens. You do not feel magically transformed. I have no desire to go out and buy a dirndl. I still don't like beer. I will not eat a Schweinshaxe. But wait, one little triumph: when Bush marches into Iran, it will no longer be in my name. And that is a relief.