Saturday, October 27, 2007

Antibiotics, Visitors in Oslo, Presenting SAGE, and the Poincaré Problem

Following a recurring theme on this blog, I would like to start with an excuse for not writing for so long. It has a been a busy time, and a lot of things have happened.

Annett has been ill for the past four, five weeks. She has been bedridden with a sinus infection, that just didn't go away. After her third antibiotics she visited a specialist (Dutch: KNO-arts) who examined her thoroughly for an hour. The result: there was no sinus infection anymore, and he couldn't pin point the reason for the remaining pressure on her head and the headaches. Among the possible causes, he suggested the strong antibiotics itself and the use of pain killers, generating a vicious circle. Next week she will visit a neurologist.

Luckily there were times where she felt a bit better. Joost and Annieka payed us a six-day-visit ending Tuesday last week. They brought some delicious stroopwafels, taai taai and pepernoten. We rented for a long weekend a cabin in Eidfjord, a city on the west coast a five-hour-drive from Olso. The cabin was connected to the sea with a beautiful view out over the fjord ("een doodeenvoudige zeeinham"). From there we planned to take day trips into the mountains. Unfortunately Annett didn't come along for obvious reasons, and I only participated the first day because I fell ill. Nevertheless we had a cozy time. Oude jongens krentenbrood, as we say in Dutch.

Some weeks ago I gave a talk (HTML, PDF, ODP) about SAGE for my algebra group in Oslo, mathematics software that I wrote about earlier on this blog. It is the first presentation that I give in a new style, free from data bloated slides and dull bullet points. Instead, the slides aim to capture the essence of what I talk about, and support me in making an emotional connection with the audience. My journey for improving my presentation style started with the discovery of Garr Reynolds' blog Presentation Zen, which aims to reform the way Power Point presentations are traditionally being given (I'm looking forward to the book!). There I read about the book Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson, which helped me to pour my presentation in the form of a traditional story structure.

Other good news is that my PhD research is gaining some momentum. After the holiday my supervisor and I decided to put what we had been doing so far on hold, because I felt stuck. We switched our attention to another related topic that we had been looking at in the beginning of my PhD thesis, called the Poincaré problem. The past few weeks I've been reading recent literature on this topic, and right now I'm reading in detail some articles where there seems to be room for improvement.

The upcoming week is going to be busy. Thursday and Friday there is a national algebra conference organized in Oslo, directly followed by KoMIN, a conference for Norwegian graduate and undergraduate students. There I'll probably give a short presentation on my PhD research.

But I'm looking even more forward to the weekend after that. Annett and I will be in the Netherlands from the 9th until the 14th of November, so that we can be at my father's birthday. Besides looking forward to see my family and friends again, I'm looking forward to eat typically Dutch Chinese food, which is very different from the Chinese food you get in other countries. I haven't eaten this in almost two years. Yum!

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