Mathematic’s like…

… this picture.

What do you see on this Picture?

What do you see on this Picture?

In a really great way Jan-Martin Klinge, who is a teacher of Mathematics, tries to explain to students and parents (unfortunately just in German), what learning mathematics is really all about. If you show this picture to a large group, regardless if they are students or parents – and they are not to communicate – there are very few who “get it” right away. The rest sees random black and white dots – maybe modern art? Same goes for maths – a selective few understand new theorems right when reading them.

For the rest Maths means: Work. It means to really look at this picture as long as it takes. You will eventually see it, and if you do, it’ll “click”. After that moment (which itself is in fact a pretty rewarding feeling), you will be 100% sure to know what this picture is all about, you’ll always see it, and no one will be able to confuse you.

If on the other hand, I told you, what you are supposed to see, you might just accept it, without really seeing it. Now you might know what you are supposed to see, but if someone else told you something different, you couldn’t verify it. And you couldn’t even reproduce it, e.g. by trying to explain someone else how to see it.

That’s in a digest, what the article is talking about, with the lesson to be learned being: It will take time and a lot of effort and discipline, until you understand something in Maths and there’s no way arround it. If you just accept it, you won’t get it, and in Maths where everything is consecutive to each other, you’ll never get anywhere, if you just accept.

The author speaks about Maths, but of course, this is a brilliant example that you can just transfer to any other subject as well. Take computer science, for example. You won’t ever get, what recursion is and how it works, if you never managed to think recursively. Try it on the “Tower of Hanoi“. If you understood recursion, you’ll always be able to find an elegant recursive solution, and anybody who understood recursion will get it. But if you didn’t, not a single thing of it will make any sense. And of course, you will never get programming, by just reading about it, and reproducing the examples. Only when you are forced to do something yourself will you really start to learn, to experience and thus – start to get it. Once you are there, it cannot be taken from you – but getting there requires a lot of time and effort. And in the beginning it will be pretty frustrating. The examples might be easy, but try developing your own ideas, after just learning the first basics of programming – you’ll probably fail with some error message that – at least in the beginning – doesn’t make any sense to you, you’ll try editing it, making it worse, you’ll search for explanations on the web, and in the end hours will have passed, untill you got rid of the error. And then you’ll realize that you haven’t even gotten 10% of your idea implemented. But believe me, you’ll take a lot out of this experience and in your second project everything will go much smoother and work like a charm.

Now, if you think carefully you might find yourself saying: “Hey, I study Physics” or “Hey I’m studying politics”, etc. “… and I can relate to that”. My thesis is, that even to be able to (critically) think, you need to work at it. And of course, regardless of what you do: where don’t you need to think? Someone who always just accepts and never questions something – regardless if it is the view of a fellow, an article in the news, or some decision a politician makes – will in the long run never be able to think for himself.

And to do so, you need time. To question something you need an opinion. To get to an – well founded – opinion, you need to know all the facts, and to get to there, you need to invest time and effort.

If you do, your reward will be, that you’ll see what’s in the picture. But of course, and that’s something that also the author of the article points out: Nowadays people don’t want or like to spend time and effort into Maths (and that is true for so many people in all the subjects that you might think of). But in the end it’s up to you – do you want to walk around being sure, knowing and seeing? Or will you end up walking this earth being blind?

Happy Thanksgiving!

At least to all my american friends and readers. In Germany, as you may know, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, which as a youth always made me kind of sad – I guess, its my second most favorite holiday, after Halloween, which in Germany, sadly, also isn’t celebrated (and that’s how TV spoils you. Don’t know why, but I always enjoyed both holidays when shown in series or movies that are set in the US).

Still, no reason not to think about one’s past year and be thankful about the good things that have happened. I guess this year I am most thankful for those friends that really where there for me, even in the hard times. Also I am thankful for the many possibilities that opened up to me. Though not everything went as planned, I was given some chances, and a huge bunch of changes opened up new perspectives and activity-possibilities. And, last but not least, I am thankful for having the chance to be living in a real city again. I had a lot of fun and great memories in Husum and Kiel, but I’m from Hamburg, I’m used to be living in a metropolis which is true for Hamburg at least for German standards (it’s the second biggest city after Berlin, with 1.8 million people living in an area of 755 square kilometers).

The new town I’m living in, is by far smaller – the last on the Top-10-List of Germany’s largest cities. But still, it’s tremendous, compared to Husum (22.000 people on 25 km2) or Kiel (250.000 people on 120 km2). Bremen has 550.000 people on 326 km2, and that means reliable, fast and frequent public transportation, even on weekends, and at night, 24/7 shops, a variety of shops, clubs, bars and restaurants, international cuisine, an enormous number of leisure time facilities and a lot of like-minded people.

So, how did I spent my Thanksgiving? Locked up in a room (or rather a lab) with a lot of power sockets, electronic equipment and a bunch of like-minded nerds, in the Hackerspace Bremen e.V. (which’ll probably end up as my new home 😀 ), talking about amateur radio.

Anyhow, I wish, you all had a happy Thanksgiving, regardless whether you are American and celebrated it with a large family feast, or if you didn’t think about it at all (that’s what normally happens with us non-Americans). And never forget: also a bad Thanksgiving can still be a nice and happy day, it all depends on your perception.

Chandler: “I’d like to propose a toast. Little toast here…
I know this isn’t the kind of Thanksgiving that all of you all planned, but for me, this has been really great, you know, I think because it didn’t involve divorce or projectile vomiting. Anyway, I was just thinking, I mean,

[to Rachel]

if you’d gone to Vail,

[to Monica and Ross]

and if you guys’d been with your family,

[to Joey]

if you didn’t have syphilis and stuff, we wouldn’t be all together, you know? So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m very thankful that all of your Thanksgivings sucked.”

Monica: “That’s so sweet.”

Ross: “And hey, here’s to a lousy Christmas.”

Rachel: “And a crappy New Year.”

Chandler: “Here, here!”

(Friends, S01E09 – The One Where Underdog Gets Away)

Just don’t misbehave, bad things may happen to anyone, so don’t act up, and don’t wreak your anger on innocent people. That isn’t thankful and cheerful at all, and if you’re in really bad luck, you might end up like Diane.

Black Friday

Black Friday

One last thing I’d like to wish to all my faithful readers: Have a good start into the Christmas season. Be reasonable, don’t go wild on black friday (is it really worth it?), don’t stress yourself out on holiday shopping – just have some nice, contemplative (and maybe spiritual) days with your family and loved ones. And of course, to all you to who it may apply: I hope you have a white Christmas 🙂

Opening today: The Christmas fair in Bremen

Opening today: The Christmas fair in Bremen

The ‘ick’ in ‘esoteric’


That dreck puts the ‘ick’ in ‘esoteric’

Found out that I enjoyed this one (on Dec. 28th, 2012)  while cleaning up some junk. After googling, I found out it originated from Gossip Girl. It’s a quote by Blair Waldorf to Dan Humphrey after they discuss movies they watched, from the 13th episode of Season 4, “Damien Darko“.

Graffiti is Getting Lazy

What to paint, when everything is painted as Graffiti already? What to tag, when everything has been tagged already?

Graffiti is Getting Lazy

That’s one of the quotes from David Bussell. And to do something against it, he decided to do something new. Graffiti in hotels. Which probably shouldn’t work, as the cleaning personnel should find and remove it, preparing the room to look as perfect for every new customer.

Which is why he chose places, where even the housekeeping would normally never look at. Ever turned around a painting in an hotel room? Or the mirror in a restroom? Ever looked underneath the sink? Ever pulled out a drawer completely and looked at it’s backside? Ever removed a wardrobe to take a look at the backside that faces the wall? Took of the lit off a toilet tank and looked at the inside of the lit?

Well if you did, you might have stumbled upon a text by David Bussell.

If you’re reading this it’s already too late…

is the typical start of a little story that he leaves around hotels since 2006, around the world. But what’s the fun of it if you can’t see it? Well, since his first “Graffiti” David Bussell is also taking photos of them. Some days ago he started posting those photos on his blog, so next time you visit an hotel, check with his page. You may find a secret message no one else has discovered, yet.

I for once love the idea of hiding little stories for succeeding hotel guests. Neat idea, never thought of this. What do you think? Love it as much as I do? Or do you consider this vandalism or do you consider it dull and useless? If you have an oppinion, feel free to share it in a comment 🙂

Having a Mind Like Water to Achieve Flow

Ever heard of the phrase to have a mind like water? I did, when reading the German translation of Getting Things Done years ago, though somehow when reading it, I didn’t put to much of a thought into it. I don’t even remember how it was translated.

Now I got myself the audio book (which is in English, as I often read that the English version is far better than the German translation) and while hearing it, this concept somehow started to interest me. I started thinking about the mind like water and it’s implications, and I even started googling for it. Getting Things Done author David Allen describes it in the following way:

In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is: Totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.

It reminded me of another concept from psychology that I know of, which is called flow. Flow describes a state that is right in-between the states of mental overload and mental underload – or sometimes also referred to as the states of fear and boredom – and it is described as enduring happiness while in a state of high creativity and/or productivity, where you are highly concentrated while working, but have the feeling of effortlessness, adding a high degree of playfulness to your task. Being in flow, everything else loses importance, one doesn’t even realize how time simply “flies by”. An important factor of flow is, that you don’t try too hard, but also that your tasks are not too easy – there’s a balance between the own abilities and the tasks requirements, so that the requirements are always just slightly (and increasingly) higher then your abilites, making it neither boring nor frustrating. Or to put it in Allen’s words by describing the mind like water: you neither need to overreact nor underreact.

The state of flow is the most desirable state you want to be in, when solving tasks, because it makes you most efficient and effective, unfolds your full potential, and by doing so raises your abilities and yet you are totally relaxed, stress-free, feel content and a inner harmony. You’ll love doing what you’re doing – it won’t feel like work but like recreation.

The term Flow was coined and first researched by the Hungarian psychology professor CsĂ­kszentmihĂĄlyi MihĂĄly in the 1970s and it is still actively investigated, having stakeholders from various fields, like business (e.g., creating environments that increase the possibility for workers to reach a flow state), medicine (e.g. for helping people with concentration disorders), or the entertainment industry (e.g. figuring out how to create computer games that have a high and long lasting success rate).

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