All entries for October 2005

October 30, 2005

Problem Solving With Statistics

The past week has included as much statistics as could be crammed in to 40 hours. Needless to say, I am very tired and welcome the switch this morning from BST to GMT.

I was pleased that I picked up most of the new stuff quickly but I feel that this is only because I understand the basics after doing it at A-Level and in my UG course. The approach was a very practical one but I am quite happy to use the formula without having to derive it from first principles under exam conditions.

The approach has enabled me to view the tools in an industrial perspective and see how they can be used; which situations, pitfalls, benefits etc. I can see all these tools in terms of the experiments which I will design and run. Very useful.

For some people, almost all of the stats we covered was new. This must be a nightmare-ish situation to be in! All the way from the formula for the mean and standard to multiple regression, ANOVA, and pdfs in a week.

Today, i'm going with OLRFC who are playing Worcester 2nds in Worcester. It's not so far and even though away matches are a faff and take up the entire day, i'm looking forward to being somewhere different. Good luck Old Leams!


October 20, 2005

Coffee

I was originally a tea drinker but discovered coffee at some point in my teens. I now enjoy both, but I have a problem. I have become hooked on caffiene again after returning to university (the 2 for 1 on those little sachets of cappuccino in Asda didn't help either). Starbucks, now renamed something silly, in University House is located opposite the Learning Grid (LG) where I spend a lot of time. Its convenient….too convenient. Something must be done.

My plan is this: Caffeine impacts upon the quality of my sleep which is very important to me. I don't think that it actually serves to keep me awake for longer. This is a myth, or perhaps I have an 'unconscious' switch in my head that flips at some point between 10pm and 11pm. Coffee is also nice. I should, therefore, drink coffee as a treat i.e. a few times a week not as a part of any routine. If coffee isn't a part of a routine then my brain isn't hooked on it. I've fallen off the wagon quite badly (onto little sharp pointy rocks) and oh the anguish – I was so good for so long! As you can see, I take my hot beverage strategy very seriously.

I'm keeping track of my caffiene intake in a Bridget Jones stylie so that I can chart my progress. Naturally there will be variation but that will not, I repeat NOT, be an excuse to let myself go and chug gallons of the stuff when the going gets tough. Discipline, Jane, discipline. The weekend in the Netherlands can only be described as a binge so the only way is up. Go me.

I'm cutting down rather than stopping cold turkey. Have you ever tried stopping caffiene? Day 1 is fine but the headache on day 2 and/or 3 is untouchable by any pain killer. But be careful with the pain killers as a few of the branded ones contain caffiene. It'll get ya in the end :-D Am I being overly cynical? Has the grouchiness started already?

Coffee count: 2


October 18, 2005

Mijn eerste blogpost in het Nederlands!

Hallo. Ik ga een paar blogposts in het Nederlands schijven want ik will asap vloeiend Nederlands spreken. Mijn vrienden en vriendinnen van EEE spreken verschillende talen en ik wil dat ook.

Dat is genoeg voor vandaag. Daag.

Roughly translated…

Hello. I am going to post a few messages in Dutch because I want to be fluent asap. My friends from EEE speak different languages and I want to do that too.

That is enough for today. Bye.

Coffee count: 1 large one


Trip to the Netherlands

This weekend I had my first trip abroad since last December. That may not seem like a long time but it felt like a decade for me. I haven't been able to travel since January (after they found my brain tumour) for the simple reason that if I had another seizure then treatment would be difficult. I have been cleared to go on holiday again (from three months after the surgery) and I'm making the most of it.

I like travelling abroad; it refreshes the mind and the soul…and also helps to improves ones foreign language skills (I will try to practice my Dutch a little more but expect mistakes). It feels good to just be somewhere different. To put some distance between all the stuff that you have to deal with, both mentally and physically. The geographical discance helps with the mental one, and so overseas travel is a perfect solution if the dent in the bank balance is discounted.

The Netherlands was just as I remembered it. Flat with lots of bicycles and windmills. You can see much evidence of this in the gallery. It's amazing what a camera phone can do! After a 4am start on Saturday M and I were at Schipol for 10am and had a gorgeous morning in Haarlem and then went onwards to the beach. It was sunny (T-shirt weather almost) throughout the whole weekend, Saturday especially.

On Saturday night we had a meal with M's parents in Ijsselstein (Utrecht area, or 'right in the middle of the country' for those not quite up to speed with their Dutch geography). It was so nice that M decided to bring the leftovers home with us. Oh yes. And if I keep over with some bizarre food related illness then i'll know who to blame. M insisted that we also bring home some other assorted foodstuffs inclusing paardeworst (literally translated as horse sausage) and so this weeks lunch will be horse sandwiches. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical but it is really quite nice.

The majority of the weekend was spent visiting M's relatives in Dordrecht and Papendrecht. Naturally, I avoided any difficult conversation by doing many Sudokus including the FT 'Diabolical' Sudoku which was rather easy (and a little disappointing). I also attempted my first Dutch crossword but I needed a lot of help. A useful learning experience but on reflection I can only remember three different versions of the word for 'fool'. Hmm.

Sunday night yielded a meal with M's family which was great despite the language barrier. I AM improving but it is hard when not immersed in it all. But the most exciting event of the weekend was discovering the existence of tea sticks:

Essentially, tea sticks are foil tubes full of tea with holes along the side. When you swish them around in hot water you get tea! And you don't even need a spoon. Fantastic. Why didn't I know about these before???

And so I returned to the UK (and a time management seminar) absolutely wrecked after another 5am start on Monday morning. Thankfully I can get back to university for a little peace and quiet…

Coffee count: 512


October 14, 2005

Problem of depth in EEE

Writing about Am I supposed to be shallow? from Vladislav's blog

The practices and principles of excellence course has ended today and I have had a little time to reflect on my solution to Vlad's problem of the trade-off between depth and breadth of knowledge. I completely agree with his statement that each topic could be a PhD thesis in itself. So, where should we stop?

I find myself applying some of Demings thinking to my own study this week. There are 168 hours in a week with far fewer available for study. By being enabler focused rather than worrying about not achieving the reults we can be better achieve improvement in our learning skills to improve the depth of learning that we can achieve at the time. Clearly, it is important to be guided by the learning objectives and outcomes for the module.

It is important to reiterate my point that efficiency of time is just as important than quantity of time available for study. It is easy to work for hours and hours and get nowhere.

I imagine that this way of thinking will be unsatisfactory for some i.e. 'you do what you can in the time available'. Indeed, skimming the surface of many topics increases your knowledge of what you don't know, perhaps leaving you less satisfied than when you started. I believe I have moved from feeling very unsatisfied (and quite insecure with my depth of knowledge on a topic) to understanding what I don't know. I intend to continue my learning on these topics way after my degree has ended and so I don't feel so worried about how much knowledge I can gain in a year. I will learn it next year. And I know where to start and how to ask the right questions.

I think that EFQM excellence is not only applicable to businesses but to many other situations. I have been thinking about the EFQM Model in the context of a MSc student at Warwick university. I have my own set of results that I want to achieve at the end of the year, not to mention learning objectives for the course!

This year, I want to discover what my limits are which is something that I was unable to do in my ug degree (due to unforseen medical circumstances). I think that knowing what you as an individual are capable of is very important and it is only by working at the limits of our abilities that we can hope to improve. This course is guiding me to work at the boundries of my abilities already and there are areas in which I am already beginning to improve.

With all of this in mind I have adapted the EFQM for myself at Warwick this year. Expanded ideas to follow.


October 13, 2005

Deep Heat

An allergy to deep heat – who knew?!? I did something to the muscles around my shoulder last night when playing rugby so this morning, in my infinite wisdom, applied Deep Heat to the area. I think that I am more sensitive to skin complaints at the moment due to my anti-convulsant medication. I can't remember having this kind of reaction to it (I have used it before).

I'm now blotchy, red and itchy all over my torso. It's not normal. Ugh.


October 12, 2005

Industrial Experience

I thought that discussing ISO900:2000 vs EFQM would be much more difficult for me that others in the group because I had little practical experience with it. How could I comment as I clearly knew so much less than the rest? I hate feeling like that so I decided that something had to be done!

I wanted to get up-to-speed quickley so I decided to try to use my network a little more. I'm sure my friends and colleagues are sick of me asking questions by now, especially my boss who I interviewed about EFQM and ISO9000. She gave me some really useful insights which I thought about and discussed in the seminar. We spent a while evaluating EFQM in the SME context which is a topic which seems quite elusive in the literature I think. I learned that having industrial experience not really a big deal after all – there are ways to bridge that knowldge gap. It takes a little confidence and effort but it can be done.

So some learning points i'd like to share with others who feel in the same situation as me:

Just because a person doesn't have industrial experience doesn't mean that they are at a disadvantage. Feeling at a disadvantage is mostly in the mind (or at least for me it is).

Everyone knows someone who knows someone else, unless you're a hermit, and people like talking about themselves and their own experiences, so just ask. In this way, a person may even be able to contribute more as they have a broader base of knowledge.

Every one of us interacts with many different organisations every day and I don't think that many people really look at what's going on inside them. It interests me why organisations do the things they do and I seem to find out new things every day. I think that keeping your eyes open and asking questions is essential. It's good to have a feel for when you're irritating someone though…:-)

I suppose this ties in nicely with the idea about how we absorb knowledge from others. It helps to have a use for it, such as interviewing a contact about a subject in which you are going to have a seminar. Don't search for somethng unless you have a question that you want to answer!!!


How to absorb the learning of others?

When working in a team under time pressure it is inappropriate to expect that all team members complete all the tasks. Indeed, the whole idea of teams is that tasks can be delegated to members to reduce the burden of work throughout the team.

I find that I learn best when preparing a complete answer. My challenge to myself is to find ways to improve my ability to learn from the learning of others. Is it possible to gain as much about a subject from the learning of another team member than from personal research into a subject?

At the moment, all of the understanding that I gain from others is through dialogue. Perhaps with a space to share files etc, I might be able to understand more by looking at their work. We are using mind maps and I can't access them as mind maps at the moment but this is a technical issue that can be easily solved.

The absence of much discussion within a team situation only serves to limit the learning of others as knowledge is not shared effectively. Perhaps a system in which each team member in turn shares the knowledge that they have gained when completing set tasks at the beginning of a meeting, is appropriate?

I think that I focus on 'sharing the knowledge that I have gained' rather than 'telling others what I have done'. I believe that there is a big difference.


October 10, 2005

Seminars

I really like this course! It's great to be able to pose questions for discussion in seminars. A lot of the questions that others suggested were questions that I have also. I can only hope that the ideas I suggested are of interest to others also. It's good to think that the boring lecure is a thing of the past (well almost). A far superior way of learning.

October 07, 2005

Time study result

I've recorded how i've spent every minute of this week to check my efficiency. I'm conscious that there is a lot to be squeezed in to this course and I sometimes come home feeling really unsatisfied with my work that day. I went into this study thinking that my time management was ok and I realised that it was actually pretty good. I am known for being efficient and planning time well amongst my friends. However, I want to improve further and be a fantastic manager of time! I don't think that this is a choice as I spend two hours trvelling each day to and from Leamington. The bus doesn't take an hour each way but I have to count the time standing waiting at the bus stop (and cursing at the timetable) as well the journey to and from the bus stop to where I need to be.

I realise that I can do more of the things that I want to do and that meeting with friends for a coffee isn't something that should be deleted from my day. This makes me happy as this is real quality time…sharpening the saw.

I think my main aim is 'efficiency' of time rather than maximising time for work, as the latter adds to my stress when taken too far.

So, some solutions for myself:

  • Jez suggested finding some audio books relavent to the course and listening to them on the bus. It sounds like a fantastic idea so i'm going to have a look. I don't suppose anyone has Deming on CD ?!?
  • I think I need to stop and think about all the tricks I used last year as I haven't needed to use them over the summer. I will make sure I plan and try not to repeat the same mistake if the plan turns out to unrealistic.
  • After the ISO presentations today I began to think about they type of learner that I was. I tend to think very much in lists i.e. a very logical structure. Team 1 presented their ideas using a mindmap and I have decided to experiment with mind maps as a tool for recording ideas. I don't think that it will work for me in every situation but I am willing to give it a go.
  • Write down all the questions I need to ask to be able to understand a topic. Undoubtedly, answers will lead to further questions. This will help me to focus my ideas and stop off-topic drift, which will save time and help me to keep my work-time productive.
  • Take time to plan: Thinking about what work needs to be completed each week will enable me to focus on what I need to do and not worry about what i'm not doing. At the moment I have my diary, a weekly planner, various lists in different notepads (I am a serious list writer). I need to consolidate…

Will report back in a few weeks.


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