Category Archives: Blogging

Professor BowTie

My Chinese students (in the BI-Fudan “best-of-both” MBA program) refer to me as “Professor Bow Tie), for obvious reasons (though not in my presence – there, I am “Professor Espen”). On a couple of occasions, they have even showed up wearing bow ties themselves – and looking out over a room with 60 bow ties is rather distracting….

Anyway, since almost all Chinese students have a self-chosen English name in order to make life easy for foreigners, I think it is only fair that I should have a Chinese name for the same reason. So, with a bit of help from the BI-Fudan liaison office, here it is: Băo Tài, pronounced with a very sharp T:

professor-bow-tieI have, obviously, no clue as to what it means (and I am pretty sure mispronouncing it could lead to some hilarity), but have been assured by the office that it is OK. Perhaps someone out there could translate it for me?


Newsblur–an alternative to Google Reader

The best way to find new tools and work tips is to see what other people are doing – which is why I spend time writing up experiences with various tools. It is even better when you can read the experiences and work tips of someone you admire – such as this Lifehacker interview with the frighteningly articulate and productive Cory Doctorow.

From this interview I noted that Cory, like many of us, has to leave Google Reader – as he says, probably for Newsblur. I promptly went there, plonked down $20 for a year’s subscription, choose “import Google Reader subscriptions”, and wondered why I hadn’t heard of this gem before. In addition to RSS feeds, Doubt if I will ever open Google Reader again…. Newsblur seems more elegant, gives me the option of reading the blog in original format, and has a great interface for adding and deleting blogs. And it is trainable – i.e., it observes what you read and asks your opinion – though I haven’t used it long enough to see how this works.

Highly recommended – and the fact that a) this is fee-supported, hence not subject to arbitrary facing-out decisions that leave a loyal following with no tools, and b) recommended by Cory and now – gasp – me, should make this a very viable tool in the future. The creator, Samuel Clay, is a bit overwhelmed with demand right now (hence no free test subscriptions), but that will change as the site firms up its infrastructure and gets more optimized, I am sure.

Highly recommended!

Tips and tricks swap meet

Today I hosted a brown bag lunch with researchers from BI’s Technology Strategy group and MIT CISR. The objective was to get to know each other, but every meeting needs a topic, so I asked people to bring their computers and share a few smart things, useful web sites and other things they have discovered, that people wouldn’t know about.

Here is a list of some of the smart tricks and tools people came up with:

  • If you need to edit a large document in Word, create a table of contents, place it at the beginning of the document – and jump to the right chapter or subsection by control-clicking on the TOC. (Alternatively, use the document map feature, see this blog post.)
  • Pressing . (period) while in presentation mode in Powerpoint will give you a black screen, pressing the same key again gives you the slide back. Useful for making people listen to you rather than read the slide.
  • A tablet computer is useful for presentations: Draw on slides, use Windows Journal to sketch out diagrams and drawings – which you can then PDF and make available to students.
  • This article explains how to get rid of New York Times cookies with a bookmarklet.
  • Google Reader (since discontinued, use Newsblur instead) lets you read RSS feeds quickly and easily.
  • Clearly from Evernote is a great tool for reading webpages – removes unnecessary clutter and lets you save the page to Evernote.
  • Think-Cell is a great tool for creating charts in Powerpoint, faster and simpler and more good-looking than standard Excel.
  • is great for finding possible meeting times.
  • The Meeting Planner from is useful.
  • If this then that lets you automate certain web tasks by monitoring information streams and taking action based on their results.
  • Hipmunk is great for finding flights quickly, has a great graphical display.
  • In Word, under the File/Open or File/Recent menu choice, there are little pushpin symbols that, if pushed, will make sure the document stays visible in the list.
    Very useful for keeping the position of frequently used documents that are stored in SharePoint without having to go through a lengthy access procedure.

The fun thing with a little meeting like this is that everyone comes away with at least one or two things they hadn’t thought about – which is more than you can say for most meetings.

Epicurean financial readability

The Epicurean DealmakerThe Epicurean Dealmaker is one of my favorite blogs – witty, learned, topical, writing anonymously and eruditely on topics financial and others. That someone can profess to be an epicurean and at the same time an investment banker may seem like a contradiction in terms, but from his/her writings, the worthy blogger seems to pull it off. May he never be found out – or worse, may he not be found to be an out-of-work high school dropout with a Unix box, a Greek library and CTS.

Anyway, his latest missive on the continuing counterparty risk caused by investment banking consolidation and market monopolization is definitely worth your time and not inconsiderable effort. The causes of the last financial crisis are a alive and well, thank you very much. Lest you think the worthy Epicurean is an insider with an ax to grind, let me offer his elegant, is snarky, caveat emptor defense of the industry as well.

Investment banking and the whole “structured products” industry is so complicated that anyone can get lost – and most politicians and economists seem to avoid discussing it, much like most executives avoid discussing technological and network externalities. It simply is too hard, too complicated, and lacking in easy, sellable solutions. Better to not talk about it, at least not in detail.

By the way, he blames the lawyers for much of the complication of financial regulation. Hard to disagree.

Welcome to our new location…

…as of today, October 17, 2011, Applied Abstractions has found a new home at The old material at has been transferred, comments and all. For a while, I am sure there will be links that need a bit of updating and other details that will need tending to.

I remains to see how much of all that good Googlejuice I had made over at makes it over….

Hiatus bloggiensis

It has been rather quiet here lately – for three reasons:

  • I find that Twittering is a quicker way to leave links to interesting pages. However, TweetsTwits (alas not) are ephemeral, also for me, and recently I glanced back at some of my blog posts commenting other pages and found they were useful, whereas I never go back to look at my microblog mutterings. So I will return to snippet posting for my own reference here.
  • I had in mind of upgrading the blog software (from Movable Type 3.x) but when I checked some time ago (and even paid for an upgrade) my ISP didn’t have the right version of MySQL etc., etc. Upgrade moved to back burner and promptly forgotten. I am now contemplating WordPress and moving my blogs to their native (rather than pointing) domains.
  • And lastly, I am heads down in various research projects that take time (and should take time) away from blogging.

On the other hand, I have now turned 50 and am approaching what should be called the age of rumination, so we shall see if a return to proper bloggery is not imminent.

(And right here, the back broke on my office chair – even the furniture seems to think I should return to doing something else…)