The Case Studies Project

It’s been a good day.

I spent about 90 minutes on my kanji this morning, after my 20 minutes of exercise and two bowls of porridge, then off to uni for Angela’s class. I like that class. We’re all together, all 17 of us, for the first time ever (usually we’re split into two groups). It’s quite a appropriate really, as not long from now, it will be Angela’s Friday afternoon class that will be our last ever language class at Sheffield. Our last ever class together.

Thinking about that makes me feel pretty sad. I mean, we’ve been through so much together, we’ve achieved so much – can it really just end – like that?

I’m happy today to have been given the opportunity to get involved in the Case Studies project run by LeTS, which is still in its infancy. I must admit, when I replied to the email I didn’t have a clue what it was all about, but now I seem to be somewhat ‘involved’, to put it mildly. I can’t really say much more as myself and the co-ordinator have a secret plan up our sleeves. If we manage to pull it off, it should have a significant impact not only upon the program, but also upon my confidence levels re. performing for a large audience. (Funny that, I was just on the lookout for my next public speaking role…!)

I’m also going to be writing a case study of my experience at the School of East Asian Studies. Well, actually, I’ve already written it. Took me about 5 hours, but was immensely therapeutic. Another bit of synchronisity here too – I’ve been looking for an opportunity to express my gratitude for all that the department has given me, and when I mentioned my feelings towards the departmental staff to the Case Studies co-ordinator she almost jumped for joy: Wow! This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for! You have no idea how difficult it is to find people who are thinking like that…!

So it’s all good.

Now I just need to find someone to research and write my dissertation for me as I do all this other stuff!

night night.


Podcasts really are great.

I was just thinking the other day how much I have learnt about Macs through listening to Macbreak Weekly (which admittedly is more rat hole that mac-info, but that adds to the charm. I feel the presenters are my private fwends, private in that no-one else that I know personally knows them). I didn’t know anything about them two years ago, and whilst I’m certainly no pro-user, I am now more than happy to run Mac intro sessions for the uninitiated. (Mum and dad were practice. I did a session on iLife for a local artist, and hopefully next week will be doing one on Mac GTD for a few friends next week.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I was thinking about me and my photography, and how ignorant I am of what is going on in the photography world, not to mention techniques to improve my skills. Yes, one day I’ll go on a photography course…. ‘One Day’? Come on joseph, you know better than that. Unless you make this a priority it will never happen.

With time and money being a bit of an issue there initially seemed to be little I could do …ah, but hang on, if I could learn a load of stuff about Macs through a podcast, couldn’t I do the same with photography?

So as of yesterday I’ve started my photographic education, initially courtesy of This week in Photography, which as the name might suggest is part of the TWIT (This Week in Tech) network. I like the presenters, I like the show, and I’ve learnt a thing or two already. Like the fact that the camera I’d like costs about £3000.

If anyone has any recommendations for photography podcasts please do let me know …and if there’s anything you’d like to learn about in your spare time, have you checked out the podcast section of iTunes? There’s some real gems in there.

[can you seriously imagine a camera that takes 1200 frames per second…?!! Casio have made one]

My Emissions

We gave the first in a series of presentations in our Japanese speaking / listening class toady. The theme, Global warming, was a nice gentle one to warm us up before we move onto euthanasia in a couple of weeks. I’ve yet to seriously consider my feelings on that topic and look forward to having the opportunity to explore.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed today’s global warming presentation. My partner (Jen) and I decided to demonstrate to our audience the horrendous consequences of flying – one return flight to Japan will account for almost half of the annual CO2 output of an average person (or about 20% of the annual output of a Japanese person).

We were extremely successfully in conveying our message. I wasn’t so interested in getting good marks as I was in making people forget that this was a classroom situation, and leading them to consider the consequences of their actions. All Japanese pairs who participated as audience members expressed a good deal of surprise, and in one case absolute horror at the effect that they had had upon the environment. They simply had never thought that flying could have such an impact.

Awareness of an individual’s contribution to CO2 emissions seems to be pretty scarce in Japan. No-one had any idea what their annual output amounted too, and trying to find Japanese language CO2 calculators was difficult. Considering the seriousness of the problem awareness levels in this country are also pretty poor, but at least the government and to a certain degree the media is making an effort to educate people.

To calculate your CO2 emissions in the UK, you could use the extremely sexy site created by the UK Gov, In Japan, you have, which is not exactly the most user-friendly of CO2 calculators. I mean, without going to find some old gas bill, do you actually know how many cubic metres of gas you used (not emitted) last year?

ho hum

[Edit: see also: Switching Lifestyles to save carbon emissions]

How to lose someone’s trust in less than 10 seconds

I’m really very grateful to that student from Eastern Europe whom I met in Japan last year. I’ve talked about her before – she’s the one who unintentionally taught me that speaking badly of someone behind their back is fundamentally wrong, and to do so in order to somehow make oneself look ‘good’ in the face of others is a sign of a thinking that could be seen as flawed.

I was reminded of this twice last week.

The first time, it was me that made the criticism. It wasn’t intentional on a conscious level, and I didn’t really realise what I’d done until the person I critisised in a mail to another friend replied to me (I had deliberately BCC‘d them for various reasons, including wanting to maintain transparency), saying they were not happy with my public display of disrespect. I was profusely apologetic as I recognised that I had spoken ill of them in front of another (albeit unintentionally), and naturally, this shook their trust in me. I was genuinely sorry, and have since done the best I can to make up for my mistake.

A couple of days later a class mate sent me a link to this article.

Facebook can ruin your life. And so can MySpace, Bebo…

What struck me about this was not so much the horror of companies using info they find online against you, but rather, the lack of judgment on the part of those who post criticisms of others for the whole world to see! I see it as only natural that should they do such things, they feel the consequences. Negativity Breeds Negativity, You Get What You Give etc.

I know I’m no saint; this site probably contains quite a bit of criticism of others – but I think where there is some, it will not be personal, and / or it will not be current. Bad-mouthing people feels fundamentally wrong, and to do so for short-term gain is just plain silly.

Anyhow, with this as background, you can imagine my sadness when last week whilst in the pub (even I take time off sometimes!) a friend, whom I had had a lot of respect for, started to talk about how they really didn’t like another Japanese Studies student, how that person looked silly, and did stupid things etc.

I was really taken aback. Here was someone I trusted, and someone I liked a lot, demonstrating that they clearly did not deserve that trust. Whilst those around may have laughed and played along, what was the lingering feeling? Here is someone who, when your back is turned, does not play fair, and thus someone who cannot be trusted entirely.

Of course this person isn’t alone in behaving like that. I’m sure the vast majority of people on the planet have done it at some time or other. I myself included, of course. Although I have never been fond of bad-mouthing, until late 2006 I had not made a promise to myself to never indulge in such games. Having made that conscious decision I find myself feeling a lot more positively towards others who might otherwise become the butt of my criticism, my frustration, my anger. By not going down that road of focusing upon (what I may perceive to be) ‘negative’ character aspects, and by instead attempting to understand that person and why they may be behaving in such a manner, one can develop sympathy, care, compassion and love for them (obviously not romantic love as *Twinkle* would whip my arse). This is turn can lead to great friendships, and possibly even a change in behaviour in that person as they come to appreciate that (in these circumstances), they don’t have to be on the defensive as they are being accepted for who they are.

I know this is all really common-sensical stuff, but this last week I have seen it being ‘forgotten’ by myself, by a friend, and by the wider internet community – thus my desire to write about it.

I don’t know whether or not the friend in question reads the mumble (not if they have any sense!). I’m not being critical of them in the slightest as I know that I have been there too, and also, we are exposed to such a barrage of outrageous personality assassinations in the media that it could also be thought of as natural that we behave in such a manner ourselves.

Ho hum.

Embracing variety

So, good news re. the Business Competition – we’ve made it through to the next stage with our publishing company. We’re going to need to put a lot of work into preparing a full, detailed plan for submission in April to ensure we make it to the final in May – but it will all be worth it. If things go according to plan we’ll be in the first stages of testing the website by then, making it all the more ‘real’.

In other news, I’m liking this idea of Ubiquitous Capture, whereby I simple write down any and all substantial ideas / to do’s as and when they occur, and later action them (whether that be upon return to base or at a later date having added them to Omnifocus, which I’m very much in love with), thus leaving my head clear and me de-stressed in order to deal with the here and now. It’s working. It’s good. we like it. We’ll like it even more when we have an omnifocus-enabled iPhone, if *Twinkle* lets me get one.

The photo shoot is finally over, and the clients are very happy with the 10GB of results. As am I actually. Food is quite tricky to photograph so it doesn’t look flat and lifeless. But, with the aid of a magic red blanket, numerous spotlights and a local community centre I think we did quite well. Got to eat all these amazing Japanese dishes too!

I really enjoyed it actually, as on Sunday nights the community centre plays host to a local jazz band – wow, they are sooooo good. What was their name…? They had me singing and humming along to all the classics such as Take Five and The Girl from Ipanema. I’ve been a fan of Getz & Gilberto for about ten years now. Used to listen to it all the time when working as a barman in the hotel in Switzerland in 1998ish. Happy memories of a very difficult time.

Painful times too. The old stereo system wasn’t earthed properly, and if you touched it and the stainless steel bar on the other side at the same time, you got a huge bolt of electricity pass through you. I only found this out when my alcoholic manager suggested I try it to see what happened… Funny, I still feel very fond of him too, much grief though he gave me.

Congrats are in order for Will and Xinxin on your engagement (OK to mention you by name now!). Although asking me for advice on how to propose was perhaps not the best idea, given how much I struggled to ask *Twinkle*! But yes, we are delighted. Been waiting for that for a while.

Whoever said that marriage is going out of fashion?

Had a really productive day today, starting with yet another call to try and get our boiler fixed. Two days without heating or hot water in temperatures that never really lifted about minus 4. Slept in my 4 season sleeping bag last night in all my clothes, with wooly hat on. Woke up with a frozen nose.

Coming back home tonight I found that they had still not come to ‘fix’ the ‘broken’ boiler.

It was only then that it struck me that maybe I could ‘fix’ it myself. So I gave it a go. I opened the flap to reveal the controls, and pressed the button with the picture of the gas flame on.

The boiler started up. It was ‘fixed’.

It struck me how living in such a nanny environment (where we are told to call for help from the university when a light-bulb goes) makes one forget that one is actually perfectly capable of doing things oneself. I mean, if this had been my house, my boiler, the first thing I would have done is taken a look at the control panel. But here – it never occurred to me. Thus, two days of cold.

(As it happens, the central heating pressure is way too low and so that does need ‘fixing’. I’m reluctant to try turning one of the internal taps myself in case it is connected to the outflow for the Atlantic Ocean.

Productive meeting just before lunch discussing plans for the CILASS website, then final prep for tomorrow’s (assessed) Japanese language presentation. Looking forward to that. Following a mad couple of hours trying to tie up all sorts of loose email ends, it was time for the School of East Asian Studies Open Day. I love these. I’ve loved them since the first time I attended one myself as a student, way back then… Good old (young) Dr. Siddle doing his bit, me so excited and asking questions in the boardroom, meeting Susie and co.

As mentioned on a post last month, these past few years the ‘talk with real live current students’ bit has got a bit longer, and I’ve started taking along examples of homework at all levels along. I love meeting prospective students and telling them how great (and how hard) it is, and answering all the same questions I had myself. Good crowd today – over 90 of them apparently.

I was in a bit of a quandary though: I had a training session at Sheffield Hallum University (our rival down town) at 4pm on web marketing …but the open day didn’t finish until 4pm. I do make an effort to not be late as I think it shows a lack of respect for the other’s party’s time; what to do? In the end, it was a case of weighing up priorities – SEAS had given me so much, and the least I could do was give a little back with the open day.

Turns out that despite being half an hour late for the web session, I’d made the ‘right’ decision as they’d started late. That was pretty interesting though, and made me see online advertising in a whole new (negative) light. You won’t see any major changes round here though as a) this is not a business site and b) current ads are pretty unobtrusive.

Back home and the chap arrives to pick up my DVD music collection (freecycle frees me of crap), then a Japanese friend calls for the 3rd time in a week. They’ve just got a job at a travel agent here in the UK and can’t get their heads around the ridiculously complex small print on various airline tickets. So they ask me, and I sit there, wondering what it means in English let alone Japanese!

I attended the university’s Travel Roadshow yesterday, having been intrigued to learn more about our local car club. Sounds fantastic, and I’m delighted to learn that it is getting lots of city council support (thanks to the council’s goal of lowering local CO2 emissions). I’m more and more of the opinion that I don’t want to own a car – unless it has zero emissions. Ideally, I would have a car powered by compressed air, with the compressor running off solar panels and a wind turbine at home. It is a goal of mine to be self-sufficient energy wise, and to have a carbon footprint of zero.

Looks like it’ll be a busy Thursday and Friday too. Tomorrow I have an ‘induction’ to our new office located on the roof of the local cinema, and on Friday a training session on being a case study – what that entails I don’t really know!

Okey dokey, time for a cuppa.