Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Here you find the random in the acronym RASP. Or in other words here I will write my random thoughts down. It will be more in a stream of consciousness format, than anything formal. So it could also contains rambelings, opinions, etc.
But the description essays is also not wrong.

Furthermore I will share stories from my life with you. And it could also be, that I will touch on more philosophical subjects here. All in all this area will be highly subjective.  So you should take everything with a grain of salt. As a disclaimer I also have to add, that my opinions might change over time. But I still won’t delete old posts. That’s because I think, there’s no shame in changing one’s mind. That’s just part of your evolution as personality.

With that said, I hope you will enjoy my random thoughts here!

My Humble Beginnings As A Programmer

Often when I tell people I haven’t really started programming till my time at the university, they won’t believe me. And while I performed well at programming tasks from the beginning of my life as a Bioinformatics student, this is mostly true. But I’m not here today to talk about that, I’m here to talk about the other half of the truth. The programming I did before I was a student or in other words my humble beginnings as a programmer

The Schooldays

Well. As I’m a little bit older, there hasn’t been much programming during my schooldays. Actually, the only time we programmed sometime was in ninth grade in our math class. We had an old teacher, who was an early computer enthusiast. And so when we were done with the subject matter for the year, we did some programming in Turbo Pascal. If you don’t know, Turbo Pascal is an out of fashion programming language, that as far as I know was developed for teaching purposes.

Although we didn’t do great things in it, we at least learnt some concepts. As far as I remember we just had to implement a program, that printed out all the primes from one to one hundred. Because I was done with it pretty quickly, I brought some programming books from my dad to class. Those books contained code for computer games written in Turbo Pascal. Yep… That was actually a thing in the 80’s to 90’s! But I didn’t get far. Do you know how bothersome it is to copy paste pages of code the old school way?
So yep… That wasn’t really my beginnings as a programmer. I mean, I learnt something, but it didn’t really get me motivated to continue learning on my own. And a little bit of time passed till my next attempt.

Beginnings As A Programmer On My Own

When I was about eighteen, the story continued. I was just about finishing middle school, having my first girlfriend and so on. Besides that I played the MMORPG World of Warcraft. But while I started playing on the official servers, at some point of time I started playing on a private shard called Lordearon. For the Warcraft fans amongst you: NO that was not a writing error at my cost. That was actually the name of the server. Playing there it didn’t take long for me to become a gamemaster (GM). For your information, Lordearon was run as a project of some students. So they didn’t have much time and resources and therefore needed help in managing the server.

During this time I learnt a little bit of PHP, which was used in conjunction with SQL to run the server. And to fix bugs it was useful to able to write small scripts. I didn’t really do this for long, but still I learnt some stuff mostly on my own. And that some computer science students trusted me enough to give me GM and even some admin rights, gave me self confidence.

Self developed picture of me, when I was nineteen.

Just Playing Around

After some time had passed I got the idea, that I had to learn C. Well, it was shortly after I broke up with my then-girlfriend. So I had a lot of newly gained free time and this wasn’t my only project I started during this time. I found a nice online tutorial for learning C back then, which I followed a bit. And then I programmed some easy programs for doing some calculations for the laboratory… Nothing special, just simple arithmetic.

Unfortunately I didn’t follow those beginnings as a programmer furthermore. But even if I did only the basics and no algorithms and stuff, I think I laid down a valuable foundation. Then came my second-chance education, where I did my high school degree. During this time I was used to capacity with school. However I improved my math capabilities a lot along the way, which is important for programming.

Before My Student Life

After I finished my high school degree (Abitur) I had some months of free time until my time at the university began. And luckily I choose to spend some of it on online courses. While some of them were about statistics and maths in general, others were about programming basics. And I noticed that I should’ve started with something like that much earlier, because I liked it. Again, I didn’t learn any hard concepts, but those basics helped me to focus on the hard problems later at the university.

So this is also, what I would advise you, if you’re planning on studying a computer science related program. You don’t need to know the hard concepts, but most lectures won’t give you the time to understand the basics of programming like loops and conditional statements. Additionally, it is also of advantage to know how to read and write data. That’s something I didn’t learn before uni. While those are rather easy concepts, if you compare them to other ones you learn as a computer scientist, if you have never done such a thing, you could struggle a bit at first.

Nowadays there’s really this big advantage, that there are so many for free resources out there, that can help you to learn programming on your own. So there’s really no reason not to do so. And even if you just play around a bit, like I did, it will help you to face future challenges. Just always keep in mind, that it’s important to be comfortable with the basics in programming to solve harder problems. Everybody has to start small and if you do it for yourself, you don’t need to be perfect. Also nobody is perfect! 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this little story about my beginnings as a programmer. If you need some advise on this topic of starting to learn programming, you can just write me. So that I can make posts about topics, that might help you.
Until then, have a good one!

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Our Relationship To Failures

So in my last post I talked about the positive side of failures. Shortly after posting it I however noticed, that I forgot about the other half of the story. While being self-contained, this status at least cried for something like an addendum.
While the last post was more focused on the personal level, this one will take a look at the bigger context, namely the relationship to failures in our society.

As a little disclaimer I have to add that this post is just my opinion on this topic at the current point in time, based on experiences and tales of other people. So it will be pretty subjective.

Back In School

Some people may know that I didn’t necessarily have the best time back in school. And part of that had also to do with failures.
So let me first ask you, what happened to you, when you failed in school? Well… I especially remember one situation back in fifth or sixth class, where I failed to solved a math equation on the black board and I was called stupid by the teacher. And that wasn’t an exception. Stuff like that happened a lot in my school and not only to me. Of course there were also teacher that didn’t do that. But in my opinion that is something that should never happen. Teachers also have a pedagogic mandate. And calling someone stupid isn’t pedagogic. It just helps to develop an unhealthy relationship to failures.

What a teacher in fact should say, is something along the lines: “You can do better!” And some teachers, I would call them the good teachers, did this.
But I guess at least I was lucky that my parents never punished my for failures in school.

Later In Life

Picture taken at the Cloef-Pfad: Sometimes you have climb a small, unsecured path to get to a nice view with the risk of falling down.

So what’s after school… E.g. in university, vocational training and job life? I would say, that failures are mostly something we try to avoid, because the stakes are often very high.
Let’s get back to my recent failure in university. If I won’t pass the re-exam, it isn’t just an academic failure for me. It might also cause me financial troubles. Not passing the re-exam would probably mean an extension of my time as a student, which in itself is not the worst thing. But as I’m dependent on BAföG (federal support for students) and I won’t get that anymore after my fourth semester, I’ll have to see, how I will pay for my life after that.


And yes… I’m also already working, nine hours per week at the moment. But that’s not enough for rent, other bills and food together. Well, I could work more. But my time is limited. More hours of work per week also mean less time for doing homework and learning. You see the catch-22?
Right now I’m saving money for the probably one semester, where I won’t get the BAföG anymore. This could work. But I’m kind of damning myself for picking hard courses at the university instead of ones, where I already know most of the stuff and the chance of failure would be much lower.

What I’m trying to say, is that failure isn’t so “nice” anymore, if it’s actually coupled to your survival, today your ability to pay your bills. And I don’t say, that failures shouldn’t have its consequences, but sometimes not avoiding failure is a luxury you don’t have.
And I think it’s always a bit cynical when romantic stories about failure come from people in very privileged positions. That doesn’t mean, that their stories are wrong, it just means, that different people have different relationships to failures depending on their personal circumstances.

How We Treat Failures In Others

The most damning thing however might be our relationship to failures of other people and not our own. Of course the example earlier with teachers in school also fits into this box. It’s anyway always easier to judge other people than oneself.
And while it’s OK to relate to other through failures, I don’t think it’s nice behavior to just wait for the failure of others to then be smug about it.

Furthermore this does not only apply to private, but also public persons. Of course we have politicians that practice Orwellian doublethink, because otherwise… If our politicians would really say stuff, instead of mostly prating, we would lynch them in a allegorical sense. Especially recent years however also have shown, that the creation of an alternative world can be a successful endeavor in avoiding “failure” instead of just saying nothing.

And it’s the same with our entertainment industry. Let’s take the Star Wars as an example. The original movies of course took elements from preexisting works, but they were something new… Something risky. George Lucas with “Star Wars: A New Hope” could have failed back then. But he didn’t… And now Star Wars is an integral part of our culture. I think that’s not a controversial thing to say…

The prequels however kind of failed. They didn’t fail in every way. I mean they’ve been a financial success. But a lot of fans were disappointed, because of certain problems the films had. I won’t go into detail about them here, because I think a certain group of armchair critics did a much better job doing so than I ever could. But at least the prequels tried something new. But then came episode seven, which was just a rehash of the very first movie. You could also call it a soft-reboot. The movie wasn’t bad, but it also didn’t try anything new. Of course it was in general a good movie. But is this a surprise as it is based on another good movie? The better question is, how it compares to its template. And you can answer that for yourself.


My conclusion is, that soft reboots like that in the first case happen, because they decrease the risk of failure. The makers are doing something that is already proven. And it’s no wonder, that movie companies mostly produce safe, than risky movie. Because they’re first of all financial companies, that have to sustain them and their shareholders.

Conclusions

Phew, now I veered away a lot from my original point of failing an exam in my first post. But this is how my train of thought works. I however think that all of those examples show, that failures aren’t always benevolent teachers in reality, but that this has mostly to do with our relationship regarding them.
And while we could change certain points, others, like companies trying to avoid losing money, might just be the way things are.

This is however only my subjective view and I would love to hear about your opinions and experiences.
And I think we can only change our relationship to failures, if we understand, what they mean for other people.

See ya!

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The Importance of Failure

And To Admit Those Failures

If it’s in the subtitle, let’s start with admitting something right away: I didn’t
pass the exam for IPCV, being the lecture this semester, which I really liked and wrote multiple blog posts about.

Therefore I’ve been kind of down for a few days, which is, I think, understandable. And at first it was kind of hard for me to think about the importance of this failure.

But I coped with those feelings instead of running away from them, i.e. just distracting myself from them. And I have to admit that I usually distracted
myself, when I had a failure in the past. But you know… Dealing with
uncomfortable emotions is important. I bet some of you might be further than I am doing this. But it’s never to late to evolve your personality.

What’s The Importance Of Failure?

To come back to the title on might ask, what the importance of failure is.
And I think that right answer would be something along the lines, that you can learn from them. So what did I learn from my recent failure? Well… That my way of learning wasn’t suited for the exam. Instead of practicing the problems, we did during the semester, which I should have done, I tried to understand everything.
And I implemented a lot of the stuff, we did in this lecture in doing so 1.
I mean I learnt a lot… But I actually avoided practicing for what would be asked in exam, because it felt uncomfortable and boring to me.

Admitting that I didn’t do, what I should have done, isn’t easy. It would be
much easier to invent some kind of narrative, where I was unjustly rated or where just everything is stupid.
I mean… I would like tests to be different to be honest! But in this case, I failed. That’s the plain truth.

Anything Else?

On a further note I also think that failures and not successes are, what shape your personality the most. We all fail sometimes. That’s just in our nature as limited human beings. Of course there are humans, that are truly brilliant, but even they have to sleep and only have a limited amount of time.

So what you at lest can do is to claim your failure, instead of denying it and sort of make the best out of it.

And that’s actually pretty important, because if you just suppress your failures and the memories thereof, they will just come back and haunt you. And in the worst case you will do the same mistake over and over again, preventing you from evolving your personality in a new direction.

Trial And Error

Failures also always make me think of my vocational training, which I did many years before. I was trained as a biological technical assistant at the Chemistry school Dr. Erwin Elhardt… I had a really good time there and besides learning Molecular Biology I also learnt there how to organize myself… amongst many other things.
And I remember my favorite teacher there always telling is, that “trial and error” is what you’re doing in the laboratory. And in fact I think, that trial and error is something we’re doing all our lives. It’s one of the two big principles of learning… The other one being imitation. And it’s the way to go, when you’re faced with a new situation, where conventional wisdom fails.

That’s a picture of a young, long-haired me looking through a microscope. Credits for this picture go to my then teacher DrMartin Elhardt, who was one of the people that inspired me in becoming a hobby-photographer myself.

And that’s also actually the reason why I sometimes, in some posts in this blog first show a few mistakes I made or things I tried before I reached my final conclusion. So that you don’t have to do the same mistakes!
And also to show you, that I often don’t immediately get to the right conclusion.

Conclusion On Failures

So what’s left to say? Claim you failures for yourself and own them. Otherwise they will own you 2.

And for me personally I gotta learn for the re-exam for the IPCV lecture. 🙂
I have now about two months time and I already made kind of a fight plan.
If I have the time I’ll also make some blog posts about what I’m learning.
Not necessarily code, but maybe some howtos on typical problems from the lecture.
And I’ll definitely make blog posts about what I’ve already implemented. So overall I’m optimistic I’ll make it in the re-exam!

Have a nice evening!

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Your Own Code Toolbox


It’s Important

Well… You might’ve already asked yourself, why I’m doing this blog and the accompanying repository Raspository, which compiles a lot of code to solve sometimes completely unrelated scientific problems.
To make it short, it’s something like a toolbox and in this blog post I wanna convince you, that it is something you need as well, if you’re studying Bioinformatics, Computer Science or basically anything related.

First let me clarify that the Raspository is not my only toolbox. I also have one programmed in Java, which was my preferred programming language a few years ago. And than there’s another one in Python, which more or less the first programming language, I taught myself. There not public and I’m not here to convince, that you need a public code toolbox. There are reasons for and against a public one. Today I just want to convince you, that it’s important to have one.

I got this hint from a PhD student during my fourth Bachelor’s semester and I’m quite lucky, that I almost immediately started to realize it. But even if you’re in your Master’s already… It’s never too late. You’ve probably become much more proficient in coding as well meanwhile.

Reasons For Having a Code Toolbox

There are generally a lot of reasons, why you would need one and I will try to compile those, that seem most important to me, not in a top ten form, but in beautiful prosaic form!
The most important one probably is, that there are many problems, that you will have to solve more than once. For this case it is nice to have something like that ready to go. And there are many other benefits that come with this. Like you could say, that such a code toolbox improves your market value as a Computer Scientist.

But that reason is quite trivial… Now let’s get to one, that you probably haven’t thought of. Let’s say you finished your Master’s degree and now work on your PhD. You have to take care of a tutorial for your professor and of course you need some exercises for your students. You should probably know beforehand, if the problem you come up with is solvable and how hard it is. For this reason it’s advantageous, if you have some problems you solved yourself in your time as a student.
And probably you could even use your code for validation purposes. So it will be a big time saver for you. Which is nice, when you’re a PhD and you actually wanna focus on your research. And also in teaching time can be better spent helping students instead of coming up with new problems.

And then last, but not least it is a way to show, that you can write code. And more specifically you can do it on your own. And as not every Computer Science program requires you to code, it’s definitely something with which you can set yourself apart a bit.

What to Put Inside

As a rule of thumb I would say you can put everything inside your code toolbox that is reusable. So code, that is very specific or has hard coded file paths in it, has no place inside the toolbox.
Sometimes you will have to change your code a little bit to make it fit your toolbox and probably adding some documentation is also good.
Besides that there I can’t think of any sensible restrictions right now on what to put inside.
Probably if your toolbox becomes to complex at some point in time it could be wise to divide it into several independent packages.
But yea… What are you still waiting for? 😛 Start your own code toolbox!

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Wiki Loves Earth

And So Do I

How you might have guessed since my first post about image processing, I’m really interested in photography. And for some time I’ve been trying to showcase my photography. One of those endeavors has been Instagram, with which I’m not really satisfied. Roughly speaking It’s just not the place for serious photography. It’s just the way Instagram is made…
So a few days ago I stumbled upon Wiki Loves Earth, which is an annual photography contest by Wikipedia. Pictures you submit to this contest will be part of Wikimedia and be licensed under creative commons. While this basically takes away the ability to make money with my pictures, it opens up the possibility, that my pictures would be used by Wikipedia articles… Which would be nice!
And the prizes for the Wiki Loves Earth contest are also nice.

A wood duck hiding behind some grass.
A picture of a wood duck I took at the DFG

Furthermore Wikipedia has become quite an important tool for basically everyone. If I want to learn about a new topic, Wikipedia is often the first place I’ll visit. And I can’t really express, how much Wikipedia helped me up until now. So it’s probably also time to give something back.
And I took a lot of pictures of nature, so I have alot to contribute to this contest. But I also already uploaded some pictures from buildings I took during my travels. If you’re interested, you can look my uploads up here.

So let’s see how this competition goes for me. 🙂 I don’t count on winning anything, because there are so many much more skilled photographers out there than me. But who knows, what will come of it?

And what about you? Do you have anything to contribute to the Creative Commons? 😉

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Living Without Smartphone

What I Learnt Losing My Smartphone

Well… Some of you might know, some won’t. I lost my smartphone a few weeks ago during a weekend trip to Bonn. Stuff like that can happen. I must have forgotten it on a bench, where I sat with my friends for a while. My panic was big, when I realized I didn’t have my phone anymore. We returned to the aforesaid bench to no avail. It wasn’t there anymore… Maybe I lost it somewhere else. I even thought, that somebody stole it.
“You look sad, David”, said one of my friends to me. And I really was at that moment. It’s funny, how the loss of such a little, lifeless thing can make you sad. I don’t know, if it was its value, the suspicion someone took it or the stress it would mean to me, that made me sad. But I definitely was.

A picture of the river Rhine with some skyscrapers in the background.
A picture of the Rhine river taken at the place where I probably lost my smartphone.

About Two Weeks Without Smartphone

The next two weeks I was without smartphone. And to make a long story short, mostly it wasn’t so bad. On the other hand I would say, it was mostly a positive experience. I found out, that I actually didn’t need Google Maps for navigating reality. Something I always suspected, but mostly I haven’t been brave enough to try it out. Furthermore it felt liberating not to be instantly reachable all the time. Not having to worry about WhatsApp or Telegram messages for once was really relaxing. And I nevertheless accomplished meeting other people.
Really only the big bummer was everything where I needed a PIN via SMS for. But that made me think, that it could anyway good to have an extra smartphone for those PINs. Don’t know yet, but it might be a more robust system.

Getting My Phone Back

Well, it appears that I really lost my smartphone. I almost lost faith, but I kept looking on the homepage of the lost and found in Bonn. And one miraculous day there was my phone!!! 🙂
So nobody stole it, but most likely someone found it. Namely before we came back to the bench. And this person must’ve brought to the lost and found. I’m really thankful to this anonymous stranger. Everything’s back to normal for now. But I’m planning on changing my smartphone habits. I don’t know how yet. But I will probably keep you updated.

So have a nice evening!

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Image Processing and Computer Vision

Or A Topic For The Coming Months

The new semester started and with it, of course, came new lectures!1
One of those lectures for me this semester is called Image Processing and Computer Vision. You may be wondering, why I as a Bioinformatician would take such a lecture. But besides obvious applications like medical imaging, there are some further reasons, why I’m interested in this topic.

First and foremost I want to mention, that I worked during the last semester on a package, which has its basis in image processing. The Alternating Least Squares is e.g. related to this work. And when you think about it… There’s not much of a difference between a lot of kinds of biological data and pictures. What is microarray if not a matrix (array) consisting of colored dots to name one example.
Also I like to generally improve my maths. As this course is a bit math-heavy, it could be a good opportunity.
Last but not least I’m a hobby photographer and I hope to learn some stuff about theory of colors and similar things

Why I'm taking a lecture about image processing and
View on the Saarland University on a nice autumn day. This place will own me the coming months x)

So why am I telling you all this? Probably because I will talk a lot about topics from Image Processing and Computer Vision here in the near future.
I don’t know yet to which extend. Maybe as something like lecture notes… Probably also to motivate me learning.
What I will not do of course is post homework answers here. 😛 So sorry, my dear fellow students. But maybe my recap of the learning matter here will be still worth something.

So far there’s not much to say about the learning matter, as we today only basically got an overview over the lecture and talked about some basic concepts. But on Friday’s the next lecture… Maybe after that you will be able to read my first actual post about Image Processing and Computer Vision then here. x)

Soo see you!

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The Value of Open Borders

Today I went on a short-term city trip to Luxembourg city, which is about 100 kilometers away from my home. I can go there for free by bus as a student of the Universität des Saarlandes. While I was there I stumbled upon a small demonstration. It was a demonstration for the EU and against Brexit.
However I won’t talk about Brexit here. There are enough people already talking about it, without Brexit happening. And that has basically been the status for three years.
But there was something one speaker today at the demonstration said, which touched me. I don’t recall his exact words, but he was from the UK and he said something about, that he was sad, that his children might not be able anymore to travel Europe freely.
This was something, that really resonated with me and made me think about open borders.

Open Borders Aren’t the Status Quo

Travelling a lot the last twelve months, I can’t say you right away how often I crossed a border. As France was under an hour away by foot from my old apartment, I went there a lot. And I made some further travels into France, Luxembourg and Belgium. And there are still a lot of cities in Europe I wanna see someday… A lot of countries I haven’t visited yet.
That we as EU citizens can travel this whole area freely and savely is really something amazing. It’s a freedom most people in human history never had.
And I think it’s something a lot of people don’t value enough, because they just don’t know it any other way.

A picture of a monument in Brussels, where two gears touch each other. In the background there are rainbow colors painted on he ground.
A picture I took last year in Brussels at the Schuman roundabout

For people in other parts of the world it isn’t even normal to be able to travel their own country. Either because it isn’t allowed by the government or because it just isn’t save to do so.
And it’s not that long ago, that my home country, Germany, was split in half and you couldn’t just travel from the one half to the other. Kind of a strange thought today…
And it’s somewhat fitting that I will be in Berlin, which was divided itself, next weekend, I think.

What About…

The downsides?

One argument I heard a lot against open borders is, that multi-national companies are abusing them. But let me tell you something… For those big companies the borders will still remain mostly free, if we shut them down for normal people. They have enough resources to make their own rules.
And it’s kind of romantic to think, that just because you end some treaties demand for certain goods will end as well. Ever heard about Cuban cigars?

And on the other hand I also don’t think, that just rich, privileged people profit from open borders. Heck… I once did a 4 days trip to Ljubljana, which costed me not more than 150 euros in total (the trip, accommodation and food all included). My trip to Strasbourg last year might have been even cheaper.

So what am I actually trying to say with my post? Maybe it’s just for the selfish reason that I like to travel, but I really don’t want to go back to a time without open borders in Europe.

Do you?

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Preparing a Presentation

By understanding your sources

At the moment I have to write an essay about a scientific method called netICS(10.1093/bioinformatics/bty148) for a seminar. The date for my presentation is in April. Normally I would at this moment be head over heels in making notes and writing summaries. But this time I decided to tackle the problem differently. Instead of trying to understand and analyse the complete text of the paper I tried to implement the method described in it on my own. And I’m mostly done doing so… And in doing so I now understand the method and could explain it to someone else. Something I wouldn’t probably be able to that degree, if I just analysed the paper itself.

The alternative to implementation

Of course it is not always possible to implement a method on your own. Either because it is to complicated1 or because you’re not yet that proficient in programming. But there’s still one thing you can do… Pen and Paper. No, I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons2, but about doing some example calculations on paper. And if you do so you will probably already have content for your slides.
You know the phrase “Show, don’t tell”? This maxim does not only hold for novels, but basically for every medium of storytelling. And in fact if you’re doing a presentation right you have some kind of story line which you follow.

The purpose of a presentation

And here we come to the question, what the purpose of a presentation should be, which is in my opinion not that different from the purpose of small talk, about which a lately did a blog post. To be more specific a presentation should awaken the interest in a topic for your audience. But of course you shouldn’t mislead your listeners. In other words don’t just tell a story, that sounds nice, but omits your actual topic. So your presentation should be interesting to listen to, but you shouldn’t beat around the bush. And in my opinion you do this best by showing you audience easy comprehensible examples… You know those thingies some professors call trivial. But in comparison to those professors your goal isn’t to filter out people by the lecture, but that give hopefully everybody something to take with.

Conclusion

What I’m trying to say is basically: Even for doing something like presentation you have to do some practical work. At least when it comes to fields like Bioinformatics or Computer Science it’s never enough to do just literary work. And by doing so you can provide your audience with comprehensible examples. The alternatives are to batter your audience with theory or to just tell a story, that is hollow.
And both are things you don’t wanna do… Hopefully!

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Bibliography

The Music of Small Talk

Or What About Nieeeeeeeetzsche?!

Back in the days I really hated small talk. You could even say I looked down on it as uninteresting things people say, when they have nothing else to say. But something within me changed the last year or two and I started to grasp that small talk is more a game of harmony than an exchange of important information. In other words it’s a game similar to music. The goal? Uncertain… I mean why do you listen to music?! And I assume you do. With small talk Likewise with small talk.
Sometimes you really just need to beat some time, but the goal could also be to lead up to more interesting conversations. I mean you can’t start talking about Nietzsche with a complete stranger1. Similar to complicated music genres like Progressive Rock or Jazz you first need an introduction that opens up the possibility for more complicated stuff later on.

The Melody Of Everyday Life In The Form Of Small Talk

I really started noticing this, when I stopped listening to music in the bus and instead started observing my surroundings. I don’t eavesdrop on whole conversations, but I witnessed that conversations have patterns, that are somewhat melodic. At least the good ones! There are always patterns that are repeated. Like for example one topic or sometimes even just one word to which the conversation leads back again and again. And sometimes it even feels like people are playing different instruments… One plays an instruments that supplements the conversation with additional information. Another one plays in a manner of speaking the lead guitar.
Recently I started listen to book “How to Talk to Anyone”2as an audiobook and by what the author describes I see my observations confirmed. That’s why I came up with the idea of writing this short post

A Short Computer Scientist Perspective On Gut Feeling

I’m still more akin to big talk to be honest… On the other side I also have to admit that it just feels wrong to start a conversation with certain topics. Even disregarding the potential interests of your conversation partners, you still should adjust what you’re saying to the general mood. If a friend is already nervous you probably shouldn’t be bothering him with even more with plans for the future.And if someone is tired it’s probably a bad idea to confront the person with a difficult mathematical riddle.
I don’t say that you have to calculate every sentence and word your say3, but rather to trust your gut feeling about what would fit in a given situation. Social situations are really complicated Mathematics… So complicated that it is only feasible to approximately solve them with a good heuristic. I’m speaking of your gut feeling! It is your personal heuristic. And if you do so you will find out, that probably more people than you thought want to talk about the big topics and you just need a good build-up to get there! And then you’re finally good to go to talk about Nietzsche ot whatever else you want.

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