A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Sionna Festival - the last concerts

I was lucky enough to attend the last two concerts:
- Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland played Mozart in St.Michael's Church on Friday;
- on Saturday, The Chieftains performed at the University Concert Hall, together with a large group of students of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

Both concerts were excellent, I can't stop wondering how lucky I am to be here. I missed a few concerts because I had to travel, but still...

Last night I was so proud to see our students on the stage! (I didn't move a finger, but they are "our students", see?!;-) Especially the first years were fantastic if you think they only joined the university a few months ago! And I guess for them it will be an unforgettable experience to have played (and danced) with the Chieftains right from the beginning of their artistic career! Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin was invited to join them on stage, and they also brought in a young female group (all UL graduates!) who's going to join them in their American tour next year.

The end of the concert was remarkable, they asked the public to dance together a dance from Brittany. Two guest dancers came in the audience and invited people to join, and in the beginning, people were shy. But the very next minute, everyone stood up and caught the neighbour's little finger - there was a wave of energy coming from the stage and encompassing the whole audience...the grand finale! Usually people don't want such a concert to end, but this was such a good closure, that after this everyone went home happy!
|| Gabriela 10:23:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thinking about my blogging appetite

Yesterday night, during my long ride on the bus, I was reflecting on my blogging appetite: I don't think it shrank. The thing is that my field notes are very much like blogging: I write down both facts (what I see and hear) and my impressions - on a regular basis, because I have to. And I love doing it, even if some times I find it very difficult to balance notes taking with observation and participation.

And I'm typing so much that my fingers ache nowadays...

Ok, there might be another reason as well: being under an NDA, it's difficult to make up my mind if it's safe or not to blog even about apparently neutral stuff.
I happened to hurt friends with my blogging without having the slightest intention, and this made me more aware that on occasions, I can be too direct and maybe blunt.

At one point in time, it occurred to me that I might want to start an internal blog here, but I don't think I could sustain it right now...

There's another reason that made me think twice whenever I feel like blogging: I am supposed to "write primarily about knowledge management", since I have the honour to be included here... Maybe there's a bit too much on music and shows on my blog lately and too little on KM, but it's my blog, my thinking out loud, my place - if you don't like it, you don't have to visit it!
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Sionna Festival 2006

I went to the opening of the Sionna Festival last night. A welcome reception, followed by a concert of Ensemble Bhaktar, playing traditional and classical music from Afghanistan.

The music was exquisite. Yusuf Mahmoud playing tabla was fascinating, he energized the whole audience. John Baily was the one who introduced the ensemble, and said very little about himself.
We assumed he was Afghan himself, while the name Veronica Doubleday's name (his wife) sounded obviously European. Ok, we were sitting in the back and we couldn't see much - hearing was everything!

Back home, I went online to found out more. This is how I found out we heard John Baily himself playing dutar, and he was the one who introduced Micheál Ó Súilleabháin to ethnomusicology in Belfast years ago. Micheal mentioned this in his welcome speech, but the man was so modest that he probably avoided telling us his own name. Or we didn't hear it!

Anyhow, browsing the web brought me again a lot of background info I would have otherwise missed: John and Veronica spent many years in Afghanistan, studying Afghan music. She even wrote a book on her Afghan experience: Three Women of Herat. Veronica got to master the art of Afghan singing so well that she sounded as she was a native - we were wondering last night how good she was!

This makes me think I should go back to programming and put a bit more effort in learning Java. As one of my best informants said, when they go to war, journalists get a riffle. Maybe I should be able to help fixing a bug after all...
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

A guest with similar views

We had a guest this week: Briony Oates from University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, UK visited the University of Limerick and gave two talks on Wednesday, one at Lero - the Irish Software Engineering Research Center (details here), and the other one at the PhD forum.

Briony's also teaching research methods to IS/CS students at Teesside, and she published a book at Sage recently: "Researching Information Systems and Computing".

The Lero talk suggested that Evidence-Based Practice, an approach gaining more and more support in healthcare, could be a possible way to do research in software development. In her talk, she showed the results of a survey: an impressive proportion of the research papers published in Software Engineering journals are proposing frameworks, models, and new methods, but it looks like there aren't many speaking about the effectiveness of all these models and frameworks in the long run. The situation looks a bit better in Information Systems journals, but still... And then the eternal question of SE research came up: why such a huge gap between theory and practice?!

We didn't find any answers, though. Being so close to software developers right now, I can realise they can't even think of reading research papers - they're so incredibly busy! And to be honest - we, the researchers, are writing for journals, threatened by the well-known "publish or perish"! If we would write for practitioners, we'd use a different language and a different approach, I think.

Back to Evidence-Based Practice, I think medicine has a huge advantage: everything HAS to be documented. And they have a unique unit of analysis: the patient (or the healthy person), while us we are looking at teams, roles, products, processes... We were talking not so long ago about Grudin's law and software developers having to document what they're doing ...

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Monday, November 06, 2006

The Stuttgart Ballet

Sometimes, the people you meet can make all the difference in the world, by pointing you to the right places and to the right events. I was put in touch with a lady from one of the companies I was going to visit, in order to help me with my travel arrangements. She was very nice and friendly, and she also recommended me to go and see The Lady of the Camellias at the Stuttgart Ballet.

I must confess I wasn't decided - I used to like ballet a lot ages ago, I had the chance to live nearby the Opera in my hometown and I was going there very often, but... ballet?! Hmmm...

While visiting the company that morning, I had the chance to meet that lady in person and she offered to book me a ticket on my credit card right away. And she did it! Oh, she was my good fairy - I would have definitely missed it otherwise, it was cumbersome enough to find the Opera in the dark, and I was, as usually, late...

It was a show I will remember my whole life - I laughed, I cried, it changed my whole perspective on dance and on telling a story through ballet. I guess what I saw in my young years was nothing like this...

Die Kameliendame is a very famous ballet - John Neumeier dedicated it in 1978 to Marcia Haydee. Chopin's music, the lights, the atmosphere in the opera - everything was special.

But the artists were absolutely outstanding! Jiri Jelinek danced in the role of Armand Duval, and Alicia Amatriain danced Marguerite Gautier. A beautiful picture found on the web here - I didn't feel like taking pictures at all....

It's interesting how your web browsing experience after an event like this can enhance your understanding of it... I even found a forum dedicated to Ballet Talk...

And a leaflet that was passed to me at the entrance says I could get a DVD with selections of some of Marcia Haydee's performances here. Hmm, this would make an excellent Christmas present!
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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Stuttgart in November

Last time I've been here was for talking at a meeting of Buecherfrauen, more than two years ago. I remember it was very hot, and I had no time at all for looking around: arrived, delivered the talk, and had to leave.

This time, I was kind of forced;-) to also take a break - the incoming flight was on Wednesday, and I'm only leaving tomorrow - these are the Hapag-Lloyd flights! Last week was hectic, last week-end was hectic. I only slept 2h on Tuesday night, so Wednesday was a travel and dozing day - I fell in bed immediately after my arrival.

It was good to be back in Germany; as I grew up in a town heavily influenced by the German culture, to me Germany feels almost like home. I believe what I like the most is that things are predictable, and when you're surprised, it's because things exceed your expectations;-)

My German came back almost instantaneously - that was because I was hungry! And the German trains - oh, how I love them! Always on time, always reliable...

The hotel recommended by HLX is perfect - friendly, comfortable, affordable, and it even has a swimming pool in the garden(not for this time of the year!) and a wellness area in the basement( I just got back from there!). Free wi fi everywhere - I can check to find out when the next U-Bahn leaves from the stop next to the hotel, I can find my way to any point - isn't this nice?!

I was here for work, and I'm very happy with the results. Talking to some of the German people who work together with my team on a daily basis was a kind of mind opener - when you get too close to something, you tend to forget the big picture... All that mutual knowledge these people share - and me, as an outsider who got inside, getting a glimpse of it!

There was a funny incident: one of the meetings was scheduled over lunch. At the canteen, the cashier had a look at my visitor badge and said hello in Romanian. We had a two-minute basic conversation, and afterwards my host asked me if we knew each other - no, she was just a country-fellow woman!

In another meeting, it took me more than 15 minutes to bring together what I knew about my interviewee - from our previous 4 months email exchange- with the real person in front of me. Not that the person didn't meet my expectations, but in a way I felt like the info was in different folders and I had to place it together. It was like realigning the two different silhouettes - I guess I've done this many times before, but it was the first time when I became aware of it!

Anyhow, visiting Germany again was a nice experience! A pity I couldn't visit my former colleagues, the time was too short, but I hope to be able to do it the next time!
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006


As I said in a previous post, I started teaching a module this semester. This morning, I got a phone call from my colleague Jurgen Simpson, telling me about a seminar and a performance taking place at the Daghdha space this afternoon. Great stuff for our students, who had the opportunity to get an idea (maybe for the first time) what's the use of what they are learning.

I went there myself for the evening concert. I didn't get any name while I was there, but I asked my friend Google when I got back home, and he told me everything:

Soundings: KK.Null

Tuesday, October 31. At Daghdha Space, Limerick, Ireland. Soundings presents KK.Null, escalation 746, and Tony Higgins. More information is available on the web.

I had the place and the date - what else did I need?! A bit more googling, and I found out who's who:
  • soundings - a performance series designed to open the senses to new forms of music, sound art, and media interaction;
  • Tony Higgins - a 23 year old composer from Galway City, Ireland. He has just completed a Master's in Music Technology at the University of Limerick, for which he wrote "I'll be there in ten minutes", for drum kit and tape. (might have been this the piece performed tonight!);
  • escalation 746 -escalation 746 is an association engaged in sonic attacks, art appropriation, and terminal documents. Performances are designed to detach segments from the audio spectrum in order to expose their form and the medium itself for examination. Starting in radiophonics, escalation 746 has explored performance art, music, soundtracks, phonography, electro-acoustics and other disciplines. The piece performed tonight was based on the well-known Nokia standard ringtone, and I found it extremely interesting!
  • KKNull alias KAZUYUKI KISHINO - born in Tokyo, Japan. Composer,guitarist, singer, mastermind of ZENI GEVA and electronic wizard. One of the top names in Japanese noise music and in a larger context, one of the great cult artists in experimental music since early 80's. It was obvious to me that he was good at what he's doing, but that doesn't mean I liked it. I guess I lack a lot of context knowledge, and even so... It has to do with the vibes, I feel like I can't attune myself to this frequency, it even makes specific points on my body ache...

The easy way out would be to say: I'm getting old, this is not my music, it's for who enjoys it, leave me alone! But I don't feel like this - I am curious, I'm ready to try , to learn ... I believe it's fantastic that sciences and arts can converge, marvelous things could come out of this... And I usually like loud music, I enjoy that tickling in my solar plexus, the only problem I have is with music hitting directly some sensitive points on my body and causing real pain...

At the end of the performance, one of my MMPT students came to me and told me full of pride that they went digital: they created a MySpace for their course and they plan to use it as a notice board! We talked about MySpace a few weeks ago, I'm glad they're experimenting!
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