Archive for the 'Life' Category

On gardens and gardening

As a child, I grew up in an apartment block. But my father had green fingers and he got an allotment somewhere on the edge of the city, about 1 km from the end of the bus line. As a child, I enjoyed having my own tiny garden that I was completely in charge of.

Since then, I had balcony gardens, indoors tiny herb gardens and at a point in my life, a big garden (too much work involved for the little time I had!).

When I moved to Ireland almost 8 years ago, I chose an apartment with a balcony. I had herbs, beans and morning glories growing on my balcony, but I longed for more. At some point, I remember having a plan to sow climbing beans in the bushes by the canal and riverbank, where I was cycling every day on the way to and back from the university. I wouldn’t have minded if my harvest would have been eaten by the birds – just the pleasure of seeing stuff grow and doing things with my own hands is enough for me.

In the summer of 2011 I finally found a house with a garden for rental. I had visited many places before that – most of them had a great garden, but the house wasn’t exactly a good place to live. I had to come to grips with the idea that the garden was a hobby and I actually needed a place to live in.

Since we moved in, I put in two vegetable beds, a tiny pond, a greenhouse, a rose bush, a lilac tree, several soft tree bushes ( blackcurrant, red currant, raspberry).

I have great plans for this year. We planted a Kilkenny Pearmain apple tree bought from the Irish Seedsavers two weeks ago and cleaned some of the overgrow. And today was all about gardening – farm manure got added to the vegetable boxes, the front garden got a make-up and everything is now smiling in the sun. I’m happy, but wrecked! I love working with my hands – gardening, knitting, giving massage – I feel like I’m filling up with energy instead of getting tired! I guess this is what Csikszentmihalyi was referring to!

These are a few snapshots from last year:

 

March 16 2013 | blogging and Life and Limerick | No Comments »

The importance of being useful

There are many days when I feel proud to be part of various groups of people that work on things that matter. And today was one of them.
It started with the Limerick OpenCoffee in the morning. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish by having coffee with like minded people once a month! Talking about a possible home for the MiLK Labs and the many things that could happen once we find it with James, planning joint events for our students with Bernie, exploring social graphs and couchsurfing, adding events to my diary and meeting new people.

And it ended at the university, in the Concert Hall, where I went for this month’s ICO concert. We are so lucky to have this world class orchestra in our vicinity and to listen to them every month!
Tonight, after the interval, this little video was shown, and Kathleen Turner, the ICO education officer explained how part of the money we pay for tickets goes to support initiatives like Sing Out with Strings:

I felt proud. My finances are not at their best these days, but this is a really worthy cause. Music can bridge many differences and transform people!
At the end of the video, the signature of Shannon Images brought back nice memories from Padraic O’Reilly’s talk at 3Dcamp back in 2008.

Life is good. And I am a very fortunate human being to live around so many people who work on things that matter – to them and to me!

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October 07 2010 | arts and Events and Life | No Comments »

Packing my bags for a study visit to Germany

For the last 3 years, I’ve been working with Prof. Volker Wulf‘s group at the University of Siegen, Germany on various projects related to Global Software Development.

It all started at the ICGSE’07 conference in Munich, where I met Alexander Boden, one of Volker’s PhD students, and we realised we were sharing a common interest in the social, organisational and cultural aspects of remote collaboration.

Since then, we authored a couple of papers together, organised a workshop co-located with ICGSE’08 in Bangalore, India, and we are putting the finishing touches on a special issue of the Information and Software Technology Journal.

This spring, I found out about a DAAD scheme supporting foreign scientists and academics to spend time working in German institutions. I sent in an application, and two weeks ago I found out that my funding was approved!

Lucky me! I’ll spend the following 4 weeks working with my colleagues in Siegen, refreshing my German and visiting nice places (if I can only find a cheap bike:)!

And here I am, packing my bags and hoping to get my HTC Desire today, so that I can download Leo and brush mein Deutsch;)

July 02 2010 | Life and Research and travel | 3 Comments »

Women in technology I admire…

Ada LovelaceLast year on Ada Lovelace‘s day, I wrote a post about someone I admire. I prepared a lot for that post, but I got very sick on that very day, so I had to crawl out of bed with fever to actually edit the post and publish it.

Call me superstitious, but I postponed taking the pledge this year, thinking that it would be safer to do it if and when I can, than dreading that I can’t do it. I don’t get to spend a lot of time on my blog these days and my sense of guilt is kind of going through the roof by now.

So for today, I would like to thank to some fellow bloggers from whom I’ve learned a lot during the years and who have been inspiration for me for many years now. The list is probably incomplete, and I’ll remember some more names when I’ll go to bed tonight, but here we go:

Nancy White(@nancywhite): although I have never had the chance to meet Nancy face-to-face, her work on online facilitation had a profound impact on everything I studied, wrote and did in both my professional and my social life. I attended her Online Facilitation workshop back in 2006, and I went back as a mentor in 2007. Nancy has a special gift of making everybody feel comfortable and important when participating in an online event,  she is amazingly creative and open to new perspectives. She lives in Seattle and when she’s not on the road, manages to work from home. She is also a well-known chocoholic:)

Stephanie Booth (@stephtara): I met Steph for the first time at Blogtalk 2 in Vienna, in 2004. She and Suw where like twins – always together! I always wanted to go to LIFT and to the Going Solo events she organised, but never made it. She came to Cork for Blogtalk 2008, and so we met again. Her blog is my special Sunday morning treat, many times when I read her posts I feel like someone is putting a mirror in front of me and makes me see things I usually avoid seeing! I learn a lot from her GTD endeavours and I am following on her steps trying out new tools on occasion. She lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, blogs in both English and French and I’m happy I can read in both. She started a coworking space last year and has a beautiful cat.

Suw Charman-Anderson(@suw). Suw is a prolific blogger- she blogs herehere and here. She’s based in London, is married to @kevglobal and has two lovely cats who tweet: @Grabbity and @SirMewton.

We only met once – in Vienna in 2004. Reading Suw is a delight – she’s interested in the same things, but she can put things in writing so much better than I could ever do! In November last year, she began to write to write on Computer Weekly’s Social Enterprise blog, covering various aspects of social technology in business. That was like my best Christmas present ever! Her hobby is making jewelry. She’s actually the one who initiated the whole Finding Ada movement.

Lilia Efimova (@mathemagenic) Lilia is a person I admire a lot. We were both interested in Knowledge Management, but at a time when Social Software was in its infancy (and somehow despised), she had the guts to embark on PhD research that put blogging practices at the centre of developing a knowledge-based ecosystem. She actually gave me the courage to go against the flow and consider what we call today Social Media as a research topic back in 2004!

How we first met: I missed Blogwalk1 because I was just out of hospital after surgery, but went to Blogwalk2 in Nuremberg in May 2004 and met Lilia and Elmine on that occasion. I remember that day very well: I was after a week of teaching at CNAM in Paris and I had to move from Germany to Luxembourg on that very Sunday, but I spent the Saturday in Nuremberg speaking and walking along with all these people whose blogs I was reading, and I was so happy I could be there!
Last summer, I had the honour to  be there when Lilia defended her thesis in Utrecht. Lilia lives in Enschede,  Netherlands.

Elmine Wijnia (@elmine) Elmine is a wise person who asks a lot of thought provoking questions. She’s always on a quest for what could help us live up to our values. The workshop she facilitated together with Ton Zijlstra at reboot9 in Copenhagen was one of those moments when you feel surrounded by creative and intelligent people, the ideas burst from all directions, and sky is the limit! Elmine and Ton live in Enschede, Netherlands, and I’m really looking forward to visit them this summer!

Carmen Holotescu (@cami13) – Carmen is teaching Software Engineering in a renowned Romanian Technical University in my hometown, Timisoara. But she’s also building fantastic apps. Cirip.ro, a sort of Romanian version of Twitter, but with far more capabilities built in, made her known worldwide. To me, she is the one who gave the Romanian blogosphere the much needed self-awareness, by putting together and maintaining a list of Romanian bloggers at a time when blogging started to take off in Romania back in 2005-2006.

Sabrina Dent (@sabrinadent)  Sabrina is a web designer extraordinaire living in Cork, Ireland with a dog and a husband;)  Although she’s working insanely too many hours, every now and again we get the chance to listen to her witty and thought-provoking presentations at various barcamp-style events across Ireland. Sabrina’s blog is a sort of focal point for many people involved in digital media here in Ireland, and on many occasions I’ve sent my students to have a look at her work and read her blog instead of reading yet another academic paper.  Sabrina is a real treasure and imho we are very lucky to have her here in Ireland!

Alexia Golez(@lexia) – Alexia is originally from Limerick and currently works for Microsoft in Dublin, Ireland. She blogs about everything from current affairs and technology to music and cultural events. And her Red Links are a delight to follow!  She’s part of the fantastic team that organizes the Irish Blog Awards every year – a great opportunity to meet face-to-face hundreds of bloggers from all the ways of life. I had the honour to have Alexia in my class last semester, giving a talk to my 4th year students, and I had the feeling that her insights about her work at Microsoft and the social media landscape in Ireland were extremely valuable for them!

Ina O’Murchu (@Ina) Ina lives in Galway, Ireland. She’s a brilliant community facilitator and a passionate promoter of the semantic web technologies.  She’s always up-to-date with the latest technologies and is very active organising Social Media events in her area.  She was the first blogger I met after I moved to Ireland – I found her blog by accident and then we organised to meet in person when I travelled to Galway. She was the one who introduced me to the Irish blogging scene.

So, on Ada Lovelace’s Day, thank you, ladies, for sharing your knowledge, reflections and enthusiasm day-by-day through your blogs, and for being such a great inspiration for me and for others!

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March 24 2010 | iHCI and Ireland and Life and people and Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

There’s a crack, a crack in everything…

… that’s how the life gets in!

On Wednesday evening, I took my daughter to the O2 to see Leonard Cohen. Other mothers (in the movies) might make more expensive gifts to their daughters at graduation, like a car, or a shopping trip to NY, but I’m not in that position…so this seemed to me the perfect gift, that none of us will ever forget!

It was a fantastic night – words cannot describe the atmosphere in the O2! Cohen is a great singer, poet and human being – his generosity and spirit were overwhelming.

I remember very well that the first time I heard him singing (on a tape) – it was on New Year’s Eve ’76, and the song was Suzanne. One of our friends had emmigrated with his family to Germany, and now he was back for Christmas holidays, and he brought this tape with him. For days, “Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water” kept on playing in my head.

And then nothing, for years and years. Censorship never allowed Cohen songs to be played on the radio  in Romania before 1989.

In 1998, on a trip to Germany, I bought my first Cohen CD.

I never imagined I’m going to see him live, although last year when he played in Dublin I made an attempt. The only other famous person I’ve seen live was Billy Joel in Croke Park in 2006. And it was a major disappointment – the way he treated the audience was simply outrageous. Maybe it was part of the show-his show. Cohen was a completely different experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

There were many astonishing moments – but one of the highlights was definitely “So long, Marianne”. Here’s a recording someone made on Sunday night:

He sang most of his famous songs. He recited “A thousand kisses deep“. He sang a few songs I’ve never heard before as well. He spoiled us with solos of the members of his band. He was on his knees in front of us very often, but he also danced like a young man.

It was a great night that none of us will easily forget!

July 24 2009 | Events and Life and Uncategorized | Comments Off on There’s a crack, a crack in everything…

Living the life of Reilly…

A few weeks ago, when I desperately needed a break, I decided to become a wwoofer. For a workaholic, I thought that was the most reasonable thing to do. You don’t have to stop working, but you’re doing something else, out in the nature. It turned much nicer that I thought it will be: a few hours of work a day, long walks, visiting people and gardens. I even ended up inviting my host to a concert in the famous Bantry House – the West Cork Music Festival was on! I couldn’t resist sending a picture to Twitpic, and one of my friends reacted saying that I seemed to be living the life of Reilly those days

I had to look the expression up on the Internet. Me – living a life of a king? I was ready to react in the “poor me” style! But then I realised that in a way, it was absolutely true… I wasn’t completely free, because I still have a few duties connecting me to the university – the biggest being the conference I’ve been working on organising for almost a year now, but still… no stringent plans for the future.

I’m at the crossroads – my contract as a lecturer came to an end in March. I got work until June, with the  perspective of a lecturing job that was going to be advertised during that period. But we’re in recession times – a recruitement embargo was set on all public institutions in Ireland, and the hiring process was blocked. So I guess the university gates closed for me – although some people claim there’s still hope.

For the first time in 28 years, I found myself unemployed. It was difficult to accept in the beginning – any kinds of jobs are scarce right now, but I tried to accept this lesson and find some good parts in it. I have accumulated so much during the last four years, that maybe it is time to sit down and digest. In the trepidation of academic life, deadlines are hitting you like trains, often coming from unexpected directions – so sometimes you don’t even have the time to get back on your feet, that a new task hits you and needs to be fitted in somehow.

OK. So I signed up for the dole on Tuesday. I was told I will feel ashamed and miserable. I don’t. I have worked for 28 years and I paid taxes all this time. I want to work, but wasn’t able to find something else, because I was too busy … working! For free. I’m a real addict, ain’t I?!

People ask me if I will leave Ireland, because jobs might be available elsewhere. No, I’m not planning to leave. I have the feeling that my place is here. I fit in. I am happy here. I have no complaints about the weather;) More than anything else, I love the people. And I believe there’s a future for me here.

What will I do? I don’t know yet. Knowledge management, distributed software development, social media, user studies, online facilitation, cultural mediation – I can wear many hats, and I have served many masters. Maybe I’ll have to go on my own – although I’m scared to death right now by this idea of total independence.

I am still involved in paper writing, I am the co-editor of a special issue of IST, and so on, and so forth. Does it make sense to keep working on these if they don’t mean a thing when it comes to employability? I don’t know. All I know is that my heart is still there, no matter how hard writing seems at times. And that I have a whole lot of goodies in my bag that I didn’t have the time to share until now.

So yes, I’m living the life of Reilly these days!

July 11 2009 | Life | 1 Comment »

Magic sky

Venus occultation

A frosty afternoon… Nowadays I have to leave the university shortly before 5pm, otherwise it’s too dark to cycle by the Shannon

When I got into town, it was 5:10 – the exact time indicated by one of our colleagues for watching the sky and see Venus and Jupiter next to the New Moon.

The lights of the city and my own clumsiness in using the camera didn’t let me get a perfect picture of what I saw – but this one is nice enough – you can see Venus very clearly on the right bottom part of the Moon! Jupiter was there as well

An explanation of the phenomenon can be found here. I must say I had tears in my eyes because of the cold and I kept wondering if it wasn’t a simple illusion…

December 01 2008 | Events and Life and Limerick and Uncategorized | No Comments »