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December 18, 2007

Colour sudoku takes off

Writing about web page http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/12/18/scisudoku118.xml

I had been in England for less than 24 hours when my phone started ringing with reporters from the national newspapers. A press release was made by the university on Monday morning about a colourful approach to sudoku that I have been involved with. Today there has been a small article in the Telegraph, as well as articles in the Malaysian Sun, the Innovators Report in Germany, and the Thaindian News in India. So, wherever you are in the world, check to see if I have infiltrated your newspaper!

Try Colour Sudoku


November 20, 2007

Koli Conference

The last week has been pretty busy and so I have not had a chance to update you all at home. I got down to some serious work last week, well some work, but it was not that serious. My teaching involves a weekly workshop on Creative Problem Solving. I can hear you all questioning what I know about creativity, and it is true that I am probably learning more than the students that I am supposed to be helping. The trouble is that they are just too imaginative, I cannot keep up! So far they have been thinking up magical watches that can assist you on a first date, proving the existence of aliens, and designing a computer that can buy Karelian pies. If you have a problem that needs solving then let me know and I will put it to the class – I am sure they will soak it up. :)

Last Thursday night I got on a minibus to Koli for the annual baltic sea conference on computer science education (Koli Calling 2007). It was dark (as it is quite often here!), it was snowing (which is also common), and our confident driver was propelling us to our destination at breakneck speeds down country roads covered in snow. I was sat in the front seat, and I could just about make out two grooves in the road, either side of which was a foot of snow. Thick snow was falling heavily from the sky and hitting our windscreen giving the effect of badly tuned television. It was quite an experience. If we had been in England, the country would have crawled to a halt by now, but in Finland driving on snow is as common as tarmac – and seems therefore to be treated so! (I had to chuckle at the BBC news yesterday about the inch of snow that brought chaos to roads and homes across the England.)

The conference was excellent: the talks were very entertaining, the people at times dressed as pirates, the scenery spectacular, and we had saunas every night until the small hours. We had time to explore the surroundings each day, and I took some photos.

On Sunday, Mikko took us on a hike around the Koli national park for a couple of hours in the snow. It was quite special to be making paths through deep snow. I thought that people would be skiing, but according to the Finns the snow is ‘not good enough yet’. I cannot wait to see it in December when the downhill ski routes open. As you can see from the photos, the trees are already quite weighed down with snow.

After our hike we visited Koli church for the Sunday service, where I learnt to sing hymns in Finnish for the first time. This might actually be a good way of learning to pronounce the more difficult Finnish letters (like ‘y’ which I gather is pronounced ‘ou’). I have not made much effort to learn Finnish during the activities of the last week, especially having met so many foreigners – but this should change now I am back in Joensuu and I am making attempts with Clint to be ‘friendly’ to the ‘locals’.

This week I still have a few activities to keep me busy. Tomorrow I am off to Kitee (a town about an hour from here I believe) with the research group for a PhD seminar day which should be fun – especially as there is a sauna and a swimming pool. The good news is that the swimming pool is not a lake, but it is inside and there is a slight chance it might be heated. So this might be one of the few non-masochistic activities available in the area. I will report back soon!


April 27, 2006

To take the tube or to walk?

In London, as in life, there are at least two ways of getting anywhere. Either you concentrate on the destination and getting there as quickly and efficiently as possible. Or you can give yourself up to enjoying the journey.

The London Underground is clearly designed for the former attitude by transporting you to your destination as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is fairly easy to use, you follow a procedural predescribed route devised from an abstract representation, and although the map has little relation to physical locations, still, it enables you to get to the destination. After a few journeys, there is little to enjoy about the journey itself, it is simply a means of getting where you want to go. It is not pleasant going underground on dark, dingy, fume–filled trains. How difficult it is to observe smiling faces on the tube. But people do it everyday in order to get to that destination, where they will start another journey.

There is another way to get around London. It is not as quick and efficient, but it is more healthy, for both body and mind. You can walk. Instead of following the procedural "tube" method for getting to your destination, you just head in the right direction. You will see and experience each place that you pass through. Each place will be different, unlike the stations that you pass on the tube. There is more to be experienced by walking. Each and every journey will be different. You will learn about the places that you pass through, you may even discover things that you did not know existed. You might not get to your destination as quickly, but what does it really matter, for you will probably go somewhere else after that anyway. At least you have enjoyed the journey.

And so it is with life. You can rush to achieve a goal as quickly as possible, and potentially miss many places on the way. Or you can head off in the right direction and let your experience guide you from place to place. Slowly, but surely, you will make your way towards a greater goal: discovering that life is all about the journey.


Quote of the day Go to 'Quote of the Day'

Laurence Sterne
"Nothing is so perfectly amusing as a total change of ideas."

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