Tag Archives: university

Viva la Récession

The economic recession in Europe is refusing to go away, despite (or thanks to) all the efforts of the EU. Economists would say that formally, the recession has ended years ago, but what do they know? If they’re so smart, how come they never saw it coming?

A recession is, however, not only a negative thing. For example, thanks to the recession, the roads are less congested. As transport by trucks goes down, traffic jams are decreasing, so I can actually (sometimes) get to my recession-proof university job by car in less than 25 minutes. A side-effect of the diminished traffic is that less new roads are being constructed, so the already small amount of nature left in small European countries is being demolished at a slower rate. Also, because of the recession, construction of new offices and industrial parks has virtually stopped. Hopefully the planners and architects will use this break to reconsider some of the design and development choices they’re making, like coming up with something truly original and sustainable.

Anther consequence of the recession is that its a buyers market in the housing. Prices have dropped by 20-25% and you can often bargain even further. I’d love to use the opportunity, but unfortunately, I have my own place that I’d have to sell first. With 50 other apartments for sale in the block, I just don’t see it happening any time soon.

The one thing that appears to be recession-proof are the fuel prices in Europe. They just keep going up, rain or shine. If the current trends will continue, in a couple of years when no one will be able to afford the gasoline any more, I will have the empty highways all for myself to cycle on. Good thing I like cycling. It would be a dream come true.

 

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Filed under cycling, Europe, Small European things, Work

Student lego

I have survived my first appearance in front of a class full of students. More than that, my first appearance hasn’t scared them all off! Most of them were there for the second round. My conclusions from this initial experience are twofold: 1) when teaching, you learn the most yourself and 2) never wear a black shirt when using chalk on a blackboard.

Also, I can add another feature of a small European country to the list – it sees its language being replaced by English. Even though the course is officially for Bachelor programme students, there are some Masters students from abroad. Since the official language of the Masters education is English, the course (including my part) is being given in English. While this definitely improves the English of the local students, the level of knowledge of their native language suffers. It’s not that they can’t get along in a supermarket or anything. But writing a technical report in their own language instead of in English is something modern students in a SEC just don’t do. So when they get their first job after university with a local firm, they have to learn writing in their own language!

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This week as I came to my work, I was welcomed by this student version of lego.

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Filed under Small European things, Work

Becoming a nerd – open source software

Since I’ve started a new job as a PhD student, I am doing my best to become a proper nerd. I have switched from Windows to Ubuntu, and I have been testing many software applications under Ubuntu to find alternatives to what I’ve been used to. Here’s a list of what I am currently using for which purpose. I try to stick to open source software. If you click on the link, it will open in a new window/tab. So far I am very happy with my choices.

  • FreeFileSync – syncronizing data between computers. Simple and robust tool.
  • Krusader – file management made easy!
  • Mendeley – managing, sharing and indexing research papers. Makes referencing a joy. And you can share papers with your group online as well.
  • JabRef – reference manager integrated with Mendeley.
  • digiKam – photo management. i used to miss the Windows Live Photo Gallery. But now I’ve dicovered that digiKam offers the same and much more so who needs Windows?
  • Firefox – web browsing. Works fine. Epiphany or Chrome are an alternative, but Firefox works fine for me so why switch?
  • Thunderbird – Email client that I find way nicer than Outlook.
  • Lightning – calendar extension of Thunderbird. Syncronized via Dropbox!
  • Libre Office – document production and data processing, faster than Microsoft Office and completely free. I usually make my documents in Lyx, a document processor that is LaTeX integrated.
  • PDF-Xchange viewer – PDF viewer and editor. The newest Adobe Reader X is unfortunately unavailable (yet) under Linux. Unfortunately because no other PDF viewer/editor I’ve tested, and I tried most of them, offers the same level of sophistication in a user-friendly interface. PDF-Xchange works OK, but it has to be installed in Wine, so its an ad-hoc measure. Printing from PDF-Xchange viewer does not work properly, perhaps due to the Wine layer between the program and Ubuntu. I guess it could have been set straight, but I just use Adobe Reader for printing jobs.
  • Sciplore – a mind mapping tool based on FreeMind. It is supposed to be fully integrated with Mendeley via JabRef but its not working properly yet. Hope they will fix it soon. In the meantime Sciplore is my “workhorse” for keeping all my information together. Notes, links, people, ideas – all organized in one big mind map.
  • Getting Things Gnome – simple and efficient task manager.
  • PdfMod and PDF-Shuffler – simple applications for modifying PDF documents – reorder, rotate, and remove pages etc. They are both doing the same job, so I just keep both.

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