Monday, April 14, 2014

Research feedback

I received the first feedback from my new mentor today.  He admits that he knows little about IT and nothing about ERP but that isn't the problem. According to 'The craft of research', the problem is mine -

Since few people read research reports for entertainment, you have to create a relationship that encourages them to see why it’s in their interest to read yours. That’s not easy. Too many beginning researchers offer readers a relationship that caricatures a bad classroom: Teacher, I know less than you. So my role is to show you how many facts I can dig up. Yours is to say whether I’ve found enough to give me a good grade. Big mistake. Do that and you turn your project into a pointless drill that demeans both you and your teacher. Worse, you cast yourself in a role exactly opposite to that of a true researcher. In a research report, you must switch the roles of student and teacher. When you do research, you learn something that others don’t know. So when you report it, you must think of your reader as someone who doesn’t know it but needs to and yourself as someone who will give her reason to want to know it.

In other words, I haven't explained in the research proposal - at least, to this reader's understanding - why using spreadsheets in an ERP environment is a problem. Maybe this information should be in the currently non-existent abstract.

The mentor brought up an interesting point, about absorption and non-absorption. As I understand it, he is asking about companies which failed to implement ERP and whether this failure was due to EUC. There is a statistic bandied about that "50% of all SAP implementations fail", but there is a world of difference between SAP and Priority. Whilst I am not aware of failed implementations of Priority, I am aware that not checking them is falling prey to the survivor's bias. I think that this is out of the scope of my research, but would be worth mentioning in the 'further work' or 'conclusions' section of the proposal and/or thesis.

Interesting reading

I sometimes look at the website of the Harvard Business Review: whilst most of the contents don't interest me very much, there are often some interesting nuggets. I admit that I don't access this site as frequently as I should.

I have just read an interesting article entitled "How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To" by Heidi Grant Halvorson (that name seems familiar, which probably means that I read something interesting by her before). Net etiquette dictates that I not repost her article here; instead I will list the topics:

Reason #1: You are putting something off because you are afraid you will screw it up.
Solution: Adopt a “prevention focus.”

Reason #2: You are putting something off because you don’t “feel” like doing it.
Solution: Make like Spock and ignore your feelings. They’re getting in your way.

Reason #3: You are putting something off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.
Solution: Use if-then planning.

I would like to think that I don't need reason #1 at all and reason #2 only rarely. Unfortunately, reason #3 appears now and then - there is someone with whom I have contact at work (he is not one of our employees) who is so unpleasant and so unable to accept what other people tell him (in other words, he thinks that he knows everything but in fact knows nothing) that I often procrastinate when I have to do something connected with him.

I have discovered that the same article appears on Dr Halvorson's own website; I am going to bookmark this site and start mining it.

The occupational psychologist gave me a book for Passover - "Brilliant blunders" by Mario Livio. The copy which she gave me was in Hebrew; although I started reading it without much difficulty, I was reading it slowly, and it only took me a few minutes before I looked for the book on the Internet. I took the opportunity to download a few more of his books. At first, I thought that the book was about mistakes that we make on a personal level - this would be suitable for the sort of material which I discuss with the OP and the book was missing its subtitle, "From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe" - but when I started reading the original, I realised that it was about the history of science. I have completed the opening chapter about Darwin and am currently reading about Lord Kelvin. This is very interesting material which would have appealed to me at any time in the last forty years, but at the moment, I find very pertinent the criticisms of other scientists and how they affected the original ideas.

This idea of criticism and discussing several points of view about the same subject is of course connected to the doctorate. Several passages in "The craft of research" show different ways of presenting multiple points of view regarding a subject, so of course this material is very topical. Fortunately or otherwise, I have picked a topic which seems to be barely researched, so I don't have the need nor possibility of discussing ideas presented by previous researchers.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fifteen minute meals

I haven't written about cooking for a long time, mainly because there has been little change in the dishes that I cook. The few changes which I have tried in the past few months didn't receive a encouraging welcome, so I've been sticking to the tried and tested and familiar.

I discovered a few weeks ago that one of our television channels has been broadcasting a series of cookery programmes with Jamie Oliver, "15 minute meals". I enjoy his style of presenting and have been watching the programmes avidly. They are broadcast on Friday afternoons at around 4pm, which means that anything which I might learn from the programme can only be implemented the following week. Unfortunately, his recipes cannot be used in the kosher kitchen without change: he frequently uses bacon and almost always adds yoghurt to a meat meal.

I tried a few of his dishes without success: one time, he cooked salmon steaks after having spiced them with salt, pepper and green tea. As I was about to cook salmon that day, I decided to adopt his ideas (normally I cook salmon in the slow cooker in a mixture of lemon juice, butter and dill). The steaks were so salty as to be almost inedible and I couldn't detect any influence from the green tea. I may try this again, but only with the green tea!

The programme shown on Friday had steak, rice and ratatouille all cooked in fifteen minutes. The steak and the rice can easily be cooked in fifteen minutes, but I raised my eyebrows at the ratatouille [side note: this word contains all the vowels, but not in the correct order; a better example of a word containing all the vowels and in the correct order would be facetious]. When I cook ratatouille, it takes about three hours!

Jamie started by placing a courgette sliced into two lengthwise on a ridged skillet, along with slices of aubergine, no oil. This cooking method will char the vegetables. In a pot, he placed coarsely sliced onion along with diced yellow and red pepper; these were cooked with a little oil. After about five minutes on the skillet, he chopped the courgette into slices and added them to the onion/pepper mixture, along with the aubergine and a fair amount of tomato paste. This mixture was stirred then left to cook for another ten minutes.

I always make ratatouille with potatoes and probably with carrots, both of which take a longer time to cook than onions and peppers, so it's not surprising that my ratatouille takes longer to cook (I also use fresh tomatoes instead of paste). Charring the courgette and aubergine is an interesting idea, and I will try this out on Tuesday.

Yesterday I cooked a fifteen minute meal of which Jamie would have been proud: pineapple chicken with vegetables, accompanied by rice. I didn't actually cook the rice as we had enough left over from the previous evening, but I did add the juice of a lemon - an addition which didn't go down well. Jamie cooks his rice thus: one cup basmati rice, two cups water and a few strands of saffron. He places half a lemon in the mixture and lets it cook for ten minutes. 

I cubed about 600g of chicken breast and placed it in a closed container along with pineapple chunks in order to marinade; I tried to add as little pineapple juice as possible. Later I diced an onion, a yellow pepper and a red one. These I cooked in the wok for about five minutes before adding the chicken and pineapple; I then cooked for another ten minutes. I didn't stir the mixture too much at first, which caused some of the pineapple juice to caramelise. At first, I was a bit annoyed about this, but afterwards I realised that it was serendipitous as the flavour of the dish had been enhanced.

This is a very easy meal to make which is also very nutritious (protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates) and in my opinion, very tasty. I've taken what was left over for lunch today.

I prefer to cook my meals in advance so that I can spend time with guests whilst the food is cooking. For this, the slow cooker and the oven are ideal. Cooking with a wok means that the food is prepared quickly and served directly to the table, but it does take me away from guests.