IEEE Region 8 Secretary

It’s with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye that I conclude my 2-years term as the IEEE Region 8 Secretary.

dsc02308The Region 8 Committee Meeting last weekend in Porto, Portugal was the last big R8 meeting that I was responsible for. It marks the end of a journey that started over 4 years ago. What’s left is a deep feeling of thankfulness, many new friendships and an experience is mine to keep for the years to come!

PhD Thesis Step 2: Collecting ECTS

Finally I figured out which curriculum applies – they have changed it 5 times since I’ve started my PhD. Lucky as I am, the classes and ECTS that I have collected so far can still be used today. Some bureaucratic hurdles later,┬áthe university online system now says that I have completed all my ECTS duties. Yay!

image001We may now actually buy the champagne. I’ll keep you posted.


PhD Thesis Step 1: Informal Submission

The road to my PhD is a bumpy one. But finally I think I am at the point where it becomes realistic for me to close this nasty open loop within the next 3 months.

The first step (that I am willing to blog about) was the informal submission of my thesis today. I submitted it both to my supervisor and the second, external examiner from the University of Ulm.

phd-coverWe may want to think about shopping for champagne. I’ll keep you posted.

Listen to Fred Hersch

You have to watch this youtube video:

To me Fred Hersch’s version of “Both Sides Now” is profoundly beautiful and touching. It clearly stands out compared to the millions of stimuli that I get on a day to day basis. When I say stimuli I mean everything ranging from music, photography, writing, management presentations, engineering solutions, mathematical equations to coffee table discussions. In my quest to understanding “Life, the Universe & Everything” I can’t resist to ask: “Why?”.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think I have a way to test my answers (hypotheses) in a “true-or-false” manner. However my intuition at the moment tells me this:

  • Technique. You have to be in control of your fingers to be one of the top piano players in the world. Interestingly I don’t think you have to be in total control, as in all points in the four dimensional “what finger, what key, what intensity, what time” space. You just have to cover a big-enough, interesting-enough subspace, which is a challenge already.
  • References. “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell is considered a master piece in its own right. Not only has it proven to capture people’s minds, but for those who know it already, it will most likely trigger positive emotions instantaneously. Similarly Fred Hersch’s interpretation is firmly rooted in the tradition of Jazz, which provides another huge set of references.
  • Story Telling. From the first note to the last Fred Hersch takes you on a journey that is logical from one note/one phrase to the next and that is holistically consistent in a way that it captures your imagination throughout the piece.
  • Personality. Both what he plays and how he plays it screams “Fred Hersch”. Even if you would transcribe his music and have it played by some random, classically trained pianist, it would probably lack some important characteristics.

For lack of scientific methods, I can’t be sure that this list is correct or exhaustive. But what I can say is that I find all of these qualities in Fred Hersch’s “Both Sides Now” and that I should certainly make sure they are in the random coffee table discussion to make it just as beautiful and touching.

j d o t x t

jdotxt is an open source, cross-platform Desktop tool for managing your todo list. It’s geared towards Gina Trapani’s todo.txt file format and stores all of your stuff in two human readable text files. Having these files on your owncloud, dropbox or any other cloud storage makes it easy as pie to keep your todos in sync across multiple devices.

Download and Installation

  • Windows (Installer)

    Download installer. When you launch jdotxt, you may be asked to download and install Java, which you should do in that case.

  • Mac OS X

    1. Make sure you have Java JRE >= 7 installed. E.g., by downloading and installing it from
    2. As always: download, mount, drag&drop this file
  • Ubuntu >= 12.10 (Repository)

    Open a terminal and execute the following three commands (line by line):

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chms/jdotxt
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install jdotxt
  • Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

    First you must get JRE >= 7 by executing the following two commands (line by line):

    sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jre
    sudo update-alternatives --config java

    After executing the second line you will be asked, which version of Java you would like to use by default. Select the one that has version number 7 or higher in its path name.

    Now continue with the instructions for Ubuntu >= 12.10 (see above)

  • Debian GNU/Linux

    Download and install the jdotxt Debian file. Of course this works on Ubuntu too, but it is highly recommended to use the repository, for automatic updates.

  • Generic (Works on Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X)

    Download the jar file and execute it using Java JRE >= 7 (

Mastering jdotxt in 110 Seconds

Get Involved!

You are more than welcome to drop me a line via one of the online platforms I use, or to contribute by reporting bug reports or feature requests via github. The source code is also hosted on so feel free to contribute!


Christian M. Schmid
Mikhail Kalkov


jdotxt is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see

Andachtsjodler – Merry Christmas from Austria

Around 2000 I was one of the most active trombone players within my 30 km radius (my radius as a trombone player is more link 500 meters these days). On the 23rd of December of 2000 I was hired to play with a brass quartet in the “Welser Altstadt” (see Google maps, we played within 10 m of that location). I was a teenager back then and at a point in my life where 100 EURs plus open bar felt like I had conquered the world. I even got to kiss a girl later that night. But that is not the point.

The point is that I heard (because I played it) an Austrian Christmas tune called “Andachtsjodler” for the very first time in my life that night. I had never heard or played it before, but when we played it the innkeeper who had hired us (he was pretty drunk by the time) started to cry. It was not only him, the song also touched me.

More than 10 years later (about five years ago) I improvised a piano version of the “Andachtsjodler” and distilled it into a brass quartet version. I hope it helps you beam yourself to Austria and experience some of the magic that still surrounds Christmas.

Piano recording (scroll down for quartet sheet music):

Download quartet sheet music: Andachtsjodler.

Active for 30 Days

Another 30 day-project: I bought a new gadget while I was in the US 4 weeks ago, a Misfit Flash activity tracker. The idea: It costs only 30 USD and if it would motivate me to stay active for 30 days in a row, this would mean a cost of 1 USD per day. In other words way less than your average gym membership. And I did it – I achieved my activity goal for 30 days in a row.


Misfit measures activities in points and I set my target to 1200 points (roughly 12000 steps) per day. While achieving this goal was never physically demanding, I had to schedule additional walks regularly. Especially on days with no other workouts (I run and swim about 1-3 times a week), and on days that were filled with meetings or travel.

I think I’ll move back to using Polar Flow as my primary activity tracker, because in addition to activity in general it can also track running, swimming, cycling, hiking and more using GPS and heart rate sensors. However the idea of tracking my activity and trying to avoid days without activity should stick.