Archive for the ‘Treasures’ Category

The Craft of Writing

In Thoughts, Travels, Treasures on October 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I wanted to share a story that I experienced during the past summer holidays. We visited York (old, not New), and in the middle of the shopping high street sat a guy with a folding table and a mechanical typewriter. Now in this day and age, that is an unusual sight, so I had a closer look. And as my son (8 yrs old now) had never seen a typewriter, I took him over to have a look.

The poet/writer/printer in York

The poet/writer/printer in York

Turns out he was a writer/poet, who for a negotiable fee would write you a poem to take home. So I explained to him how my son did not have a clue what a typewriter was, or what it was for, so I would pay him a tenner for a poem about a typewriter. He looked a bit puzzled, asked what my son’s name was, looked at him a bit more, and then set to it, while we started a walk around the city.

Here is what he came up with, typed on brown paper and folded neatly into a likewise brown envelope:

The poem of York

The poem of York

I found this approach a very nice idea: to treat writing as a true craft as well as an art, working a handwritten draft in his notebook and then transferring the finished product into true print. And the poem with an embedded invitation to join the guild was well worth the money spent, I thought.

Time flies when you are having fun

In Thoughts, Treasures on May 3, 2014 at 12:05 am


Wow, I have not been here in a long time. But I suppose between work, building projects, family and other interesting things, blogging, especially when not trying to make a living of it, is maybe not on the top of the list. But at least I think I have something to share that brings me back to the beginning of this blog.

I was looking to share the discovery of freedom while breaking out of a job, that was asking a lot more than its due. Since then, I have taken a university course, the same job again (more or less) and another job with a different focus. And I am noticing a convergence of ideas that have made me a lot happier.

First of all the new job is with a company that does not value more time spent at the desk. Secondly, I got to define the job, the environment, and having designed it as project-based, I even get to shape the content, incl. the option to say no. That has given me a much more diverse workload and time to look at other things, learn and think. I have actually sold the position as having the main strong point that we can afford to focus. And with a lot of other people stuck in fire-fighting and spinning the hamster wheel, this function is not only great to work in, but also appreciated for exactly that capability.

Looking around, I am also noticing that I am not alone with this approach. Daniel Goleman, him of Emotianl Intelligence fame, underlines the importance of focus in his newest book Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence, and Greg McKeown tries to teach the same message – less done better is better in his newest book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. So it seems like I am fully in trend. I also have found some peace in listening to the podcasts made available by Zencast.org.

So it seems like I am finding freedom without the absolute freedom of not having a job, and with salary life also has its extras. I hope that I will manage to explore this whole subject a bit further without becoming too trivial, but if that should happen, please let me know.

Newsweek’s last cover (Asia edition)

In Treasures on March 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Newsweek's last cover (Asia edition)

Coming back to my last post, I managed to get my hands on Newsweek last printed Asia edition. Maybe it will be a collectible some time. For now, I am sharing the cover for free 😉

Prof. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum on writing a book

In Treasures on August 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm

A while ago, I preached in the benefits of bibus and electronic citation archiving. Here now is the much more elaborate version from a professional. I enjoy his blog very much. So if you are not subscribing to this one (which I could understand) at least subscribe to his.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Nobody teaches you how to write a book. Yes, in graduate school, you may get “feedback” on your dissertation to a greater or lesser extent from mentors and peers. But that typically has very little do with the process of executing on a marketable book project (and even scholarly monographs have to be marketable, all the more so in the current publishing climate). So writing—making—a book is something most of us figure out on our own, as an assistant professor, on the tenure clock. In my case my first book, Mechanisms, had relatively little in common with my dissertation—really only a single chapter (some of the work on Afternoon if you’re wondering). But even though I had an advance contract for it, I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was very much a process of feeling my way, stepping along from one passage, paragraph…

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Freedom lost

In Events, Thoughts, Travels, Treasures on April 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Hm, I suppose blogging, if not pursued as part of one’s main occupation is a luxury easily lost. The timestamp on the last posting shows me that it has almost been a year since my last post, and quite a bit has happened without finding any reflection here.

So in May-June of last year, I entered negotiations with the Scottish branch of my former employers, where an old colleague of mine was trying to rope me back in. In the end, he succeeded with that, heaving me into a position one level above my former one and with start date of 1 August 2011 in the beautiful world of well cementing. Reinstatement of seniority, 40% pay cut, and with about 5 months still to go on my studies. So now I was full-time student and full-time employee. Not a good introduction.

On the positive side, I got to travel to Mauritania for some exploratory negotiations, I got to travel to The Hague to discuss my favourite cementing subject Macondo, and I got to fly to France and Norway.

The Hague cannals

The nice end of Nouakchott, Mauritania

However the job is insane, and I cannot find any more suitable term. The responsibility is between the usual 24/7 drilling operations, which, with waning experience, need increasing support, and the Marketing and Sales department with plenty of tenderwork, presentations, trainings for clients etc. I could work 24/7 and not nearly catch up with all the things that I could do.

Secondly, the company, in a fit of megalomania has formulated a carefully crafted strategy, which consists of “outperforming the competition”, operating at an IBT of 20%, catchily phrased as “Club 20” membership, and all the while doubling the business in our line of work by 2015. All that with a goal to operate everywhere and chase every opportunity and “sell apples, if needed”. I have undoubtedly been spoilt by a book I recently read: “Good strategy, bad strategy – The difference and why it matters” by Richard P. Rumelt. And looking at the guidelines coming out of both the geographic and the business line dimensions of our matrix organisation, they are easily identified as the second kind.

I also miss the freedom to read outside the core discipline, think, write focus on one task and do whatever I want. So I have a feeling that this job is not going to last long. I just need to find an opportunity that allows for focus, has a general approach and therefore allows me to escape the narrow corner, which is the world of the well cementing expert. Easier said than done, but nonetheless, I will try. And hopefully find the time to blog about it.

P. S. In spite of the double load, I managed to graduate with merit and even won a prize for my law dissertation. It is only now that I can fully appreciate how much more fun that was, even if it appeared stressful at times.


In Geek Alert, Treasures on May 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm

So here is another thing, which for some reason I have forgotten to mention so far. Every student, especially when looking to go into German politics 😉 is familiar with the issue of sources, citations and references. I. e. you should show where your ideas come from by means of footnotes and a bibliography at the end of any works.

I remember the days when my dad studied and had an index card box sitting on his desk, where he kept tab of the things he had read, and the citations for those. Now here is another point where I am happy to live these days and not earlier.

For my work, I have discovered a bibliography software called bibus, which lets you define a structure of keywords over several levels and then sort your literature, in different categories with different ways of citation, into that structure. So every piece of literature is entered under a type, such as article, book etc. or up to four customizable ones. The record allow reference to a local file or hyperlink so the source can be directly accessed. It is then filed under one or more of the defined keys, so you have a chance to find it again. The citation format is free definable, but there are a bunch of pre-defined ones already in (think Vancouver).

The software supports direct links to MS Word or OpenOffice.org and lets you place endnotes with the correctly formated reference in the bibliography at the end of the document.

If you need it in footnotes as well, you can do that easily by hand by copying the endnote into the footnote and edit whatever needs to be edited there.

So this has allowed me to comply with the reference guidelines of my uni and also to keep a handle on all the stuff I have picked up electronically and then saved somewhere on my computer. Very handy and highly recommendable.

Understanding Common Law

In Thoughts, Treasures on April 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

If you are, as I am, neither legally schooled nor originally from a Common Law Country, the studies of English, and to a lesser extent Scots law will seem initially a little mysterious.

Where I come from, law is, what is on the statute books (with a little review and interpretation by the courts). Legal language is comparatively easy, and you do not have to know the meaning of a writ, a summons or a certoriari.

But then, you are studying Common Law with all bells and whistles. And if you think a little bit like me, your understanding is helped by a grasp on where things come from, and why they are as they are. In that context, I have found a nugget in the shape of a very readable and thin, yet comprehensive book:

A Sketch of English Legal History

It starts from the English law just before Edward the Confessor and takes it from there to the Victorian Era. The amazing things is (okay, it is also a facsimile published by The Lawbook Exchange and really cheap) that it was written, or rather collected from a series of journal contributions, in 1915. And still it is coherent, readable, clear and interesting. The OpenLibrary also has an electronic copy available for free, if you don’t want paper. So it is definitely worth a look!! Let me know what you think.

Blogging, journals and diaries

In Thoughts, Treasures on April 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I don’t know how long it has been that I had a look at my own blog, and it shows that maybe blogging is either not the right thing for my lifestyle, or I lack the discipline.

However I was encouraged and reminded, what a good blog can do. I came across the Alistair Campbell Diaries (third volume out this July). And it is quite amazing what he has done with them. He had the opportunity and energy to record his thoughts of the moment during the rise and decline of the Blair administration in the UK, and he has edited them nicely, so that they now give a very readable (if, of course, subjective, maybe biased) account of this remarkable time in the UK.

So if nothing else, this discovery has prompted me to have another look at this blog and leave at least this posting. Maybe I will get around to put something else, once I have time  to think of it.

Update: swamped

In Events, Thoughts, Treasures on October 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Wow, it has been a while since I put something here. The courses have started, and i have to say, it has been a bit rocky. The distance learning style takes getting used to. With the current family situation, I have allocated the nights for studying. Unfortunately there was very little guidance at the beginning of the semester. I seem to have taken it rather well, but a bunch of people are already complaining about superhuman efforts to cope with the material thrown at us. But I hope things will settle in.

In line with one of the courses, Legal Systems and Contract Law, I found something interesting in today’s Quote of the Day in the New York times.

“The Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand.”
JUDGE LEWIS A. KAPLAN OF UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT IN MANHATTAN, who barred testimony from a crucial witness in the first trial of a former Guantánamo detainee.

I doubt that there is a better way of saying it. 1:0 against the National Security crowd and for Rule of Law.

A student’s toolbox

In Geek Alert, Thoughts, Treasures on September 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I have managed to pull a few late night sessions in order to prepare for my studies, which should be starting some time next week. As I have returned all my classic office tools along with my business computer, I have to find a way to make do with what I have, which is a slick little webbook with StarOffice and MS Works preinstalled, and apart from that mostly open source software.
Going through the recommendations from my future uni, I was looking for a few things, namely a journal to keep notes and events organized. Outlook Express does not do that, so I needed something else. I also was looking for something to keep my notes organized, and something to bridge the gap between my office products and the uni standard of MS Office 2003. So here is what I found:

is a slick little text based calendar system, that allows note taking, incl. links, pictures and file reference, tagging with user defined categories, templates for calendar entries and the whole thing nicely laid out.

is a nifty little program to create state of the art encrypted areas on an existing hard drive and mount them, so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can read everything that is on the computer without much effort. My former employer used to use a much more complicated commercial system, so I am more than happy to have discovered this.

is the extended version of freemind, a software to create and organize mind maps. Now this is where it gets a bit geeky, I guess, but I think that mind maps are a great way to structure complicated things in an easy way fast and without having the gift of shorthand or photographic memory.

The only open question now is whether I want to replace the StarOffice that I have on the machine with a true OpenOffice.org to allow me to use the whole range of add-ons, which StarOffice does not support.

What I hope will come in handy is a template that I made in line with the requirements for uni coursework formatting, so that at least the format is there, and I won’t get penalized for not conforming with the required layout.