Presentations Do’s and Don’ts.

The university of Stanford has added ‘Mining Massive Datasets‘ as a new course to coursera, a website which offers free online courses.

Being capable of ‘Mining Massive Datasets’ is undoubtedly a handy skill-set. Also I highly approve of open-access courses; however when I watched their tutorial introductary presentation I bursted out with laughter in disbelief. Have a look yourself:

To me, clearly, Jure Leskovec, Anand Rajaraman and Jeff Ullman, who present the course, could have done with some media counselling:
The background looks as if it was taken from a 90′s computer game. This is a computer science course, yes, but this does not mean the presenters need to be in a virtual server room. A real-life course room would have done the job.
Non of the moderators moves while presenting. Moving is natural, sitting stiffly not.
You should not change the position of moderators after a hard cut. This makes the presentation involuntary comical: Jure disappears and Anand pops up, surprise, surprise. You can make smooth transitions with overarching sound and close-ups.

Take this as an example for a good presentation; never mind the content:

Jure Leskovec, Anand Rajaraman and Jeff Ullman have obviously made an effort to present their course: they made sure to have good sound and video quality. The shortcoming of their video is not the video quality but the presentation’s quality.


Today I googled ‘symbols’ to help me out in my search for unused, maybe exotic symbols I could use for maths notation.

What I found was this:

Not helpful for maths notation, but fun. I scanned through John Atkinson’s website and he has some more great pieces. Check it out, it’s good.

Is maths poetry?


       1               1

       1             2              1

    1               3                3             1

              1               4               6               4              1

       1               5            10             10             5               1

     1                6              15             20             15            6               1

Is maths poetry? I would have immediately said ‘no’ only ten minutes ago, before I read this article. Not only would I have said ‘no’ but also ‘this question sounds rather smug, you know?’.

But actually the above pattern which is cited in this article by James Henle touched me and made me wonder and laugh even. Now I feel that, yes, maths can be poetry, because it can have the same effect as any poetry in any language.

book tip


the curious incident of the dog in the night-time‘ is the best book I have read for a while. This is why I decided to dedicate a post to it.

It’s the story of the Autistic boy Christopher J. F. Boon who tries to find out who killed the neighbour’s dog. The book is written in Christopher’s perspective, which is strikingly clear and honest to a point it hurts. Here is a short excerpt, to document what I mean:

These are some of my Behavioural Problems
A. Not talking for people to a long time (once I didn’t talk to anyone for 5 weeks) 
B. Not eating or drinking anything for a long time 
C. Not liking being touched
D. Screaming when I am angry or confused
E. Not liking being in really small places with other people
K. Not noticing that people are angry with me
L. Not smiling
M. Saying things that other people think are rude (People say that you always have to tell the truth. But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny or if a grown-up has made a fart. And you are not allowed to say “I don’t like you” unless that person has been horrible to you.)

This book is a novel. It’s fiction. I read it as a journey in an Autist’s mind and found that I could relate – not with all, but with some. It’s up to you to interpret this as the result of the great writing of the author Mark Haddon or me just being slightly autistic.

Either way, ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night-time‘ is worth reading.

Scroll Websites


I just fell in love with scroll websites. They are beautiful, diverse and fun.

Here are my favourite two examples:

Scroll for your health and Flat Design vs Realism

‘Scroll for your health’ convinced me through it’s simplicity and design. Above that I agree on peaches making one feel peachy.

‘Flat Design vs Realism’ is astounding to watch. It has it all: drama, game, soundtrack. I am pro flat. However I choose to play realism and lost – not on purpose but on lack of skill.

If you’re into exploring more scroll websites you find an selection here.

her 2.0

Last week I watched the film ‘her‘. It’s set in the future. Theodore, a guy in his 40s, falls in love with his new intelligent operation system. The film is actually pretty good and worth watching. The film’s humour is odd and unsettling which I find great.

The plot reminded me of ‘Cherry 2000‘ – an 80s movie. It depicts the future as lacking love as women became emancipated and bring their attorney to their first date to draw up a contract for a one-night-stand. Hence some men decide to ditch women completely and go for robots instead. In this future robots are dumb and easier than women. Admittedly Cherry 2000 is odd and unsettling too but lacks humour unfortunately.

For me the big difference between ‘her’ and ‘Cherry 2000′ is humour and wit: Samantha, the OS in ‘her’ has both of them, Cherry the robot in ‘Cherry 2000′ lacks both. Samantha is a character, Cherry an empty case.

‘her’ is the emancipation of artificial intelligence.

The Free Will

Writing this other post about ‘Free Will as evolved brain function’ reminded me of a film I saw a couple of months ago: The Free Will. Not to confuse with Free Willy.  Better don’t – especially when kids are around.

Free Will is a pretty hard core movie – I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Though I liked it a lot. It’s one of those films which makes you feel empty and then you have to fill this emptiness with some made-up sense. Or just leave it. The film is about an ex-rapist. I won’t tell you the plot. Go ahead and watch it, if you’re into disturbing movies.

Old meets Young

Yesterday I met Henry Bennet-Clark, a retired professor in Oxford.

Birgit with 6 years

Never got a pony, had to compensate.

He told me the story of fly song recording, beginning in the 1950s and ending with his last publication on fly song in 1995. That year I just turned six. On hearing this, Henry chuckled and said ‘sweet’.

After talking for two hours over lunch we got up. Me being two heads taller then him. He showed me were to put my tray and gave me a napkin. It was full of notes from an old scientist for a young one.

Thanks Henry, it was a pleasure.


The Oxford bike experience


Oxford hates bikes.

Up on the bike, on the road, it begins to rain, puddles from the last rainfall are stirred up, you drive through them, on your right a bus, only centimeters away, the bus-driver overtakes, drives slightly more to the left, so you can’t drive next to him anymore, he stops, you stop, you wait, in a puddle.

Riding your bike can be a pain in Oxford. Yes. But Oxford makes you yearn for this pain. Simply by depriving you from your bike.

Lunch at College, returning to the bike racks, spotting a bike next to yours, it’s new, it’s locked to yours, you are stuck. No way to get out of this other than waiting. The police won’t help and a locksmith will charge you 50 quid.

Today, dear bike I had to leave you behind. Oxford has seized you.