Jan 24, 2016

The rude mechanic and the cat

I have a cat that is extremely catlike. Cuddly (whenever she wants to be), scratchy (whenever the world has been mean to her), smart (always), in need to be left alone (except when she needs not to be left alone).
When a dustball crosses her path in the wrong moment she gets totally flustered and scared and runs for cover. I know, there ought not to be any dustballs where she is. I should keep the place tidy anyway. Problem is: a vacuum-cleaner is worse than dustballs.
Life is not always easy.
So my friend hid behind the big fridge for over a week, only coming out at night to get some food and then disappearing again through that small gap between fridge and washing-machine. 
I started to get worried and tried to coerce her out of there. Great food didn't help. Sweet-talking led to nothing. Turning the lights off - or turning them on. Futile. She seemed to blame me for the dustball-scare. She was totally unforgiving and made me feel terrible.
One evening I talked with a colleague. He suggested to withhold food altogether. No water, no dead animals, no nothing. She would come out eventually. When I said that this sounded too cruel and would certainly ruin all trust of that little fur-ball and - knowing the cat - she would rather starve than give in, he just said: I am a neuro-scientist - I know what I am talking about! Those critters are a bunch of hard-wired neurons, they function like robots.
Well.
My cat certainly didn't. And, actually, robots don't.
There is this big not-understood mess of bio-matter which my brain-mechanic might allude to as 'hard-wired neurons'. But then there is the software that controls all that. It certainly is not as easily separable as in your chunky iPad-one (commonly known as 'the old iPad', thanks), it is an agglomerate of neurons, synapses, connections, currents, chemistry - you name it. But it is certainly wrong to claim that since the parts of the brain can be labelled, listed, and charted the whole system is understood or even that its function is superbly deterministic.
(How boring the world would be! Those scientists claiming to understand the world by reducing it to their latest model are probably simply too scared themselves to face reality. It is full of ill-understood stuff that might sometimes resemble dustballs.)
Does my Brain-Mechanic accept that his laptop has software running on it? If the word-document doesn't open properly, would he plug in the soldering-iron? If the cat does not behave as desired that means what? Call a neurosurgeon?
I tried cat-psychology.
It i tricky. But it worked. My cat got out from behind the fridge and we both cursed dustballs at length. What a wonderfully complex world we live in!

Jan 4, 2016

How to kill creativity

I promised not to click on bigthink.com anymore. But, ooops! it happened again!
"We need to teach kids creative thinking. And we're teaching them the opposite" - "...the basis of education is not answers, but questions" (this specific quote is by Lawrence Krauss on Big Think but could come from anybody with a brain mushy enough to devour the latest coelhoisms on that site).
Guys. No. Go borrow the 3 to 10 year old kids from your neighbours (your neighbours will love you!). Pack them into your car and drive a few miles. Once they overcome shyness and see that you might look funny but you are a possible source of information, they will bombard you with questions. Rapid fire questions. Relentlessly. Kids are asking questions!
The task is not to teach those critters creative thinking (what should that be? show them a conventional textbook way to be unconventional?) - the task is to give them access to as much knowledge and as diverse answers as possible so that their very own creativity can play and blossom. What turns this curiosity and creativity (or even strangeness) into a real power is: knowledge, information, understanding.
Just resist to try to streamline everything. And don't touch creativity! It will selfdestruct.

Dec 26, 2015

I am right

Some friends carry a significant bundle of brain between their ears. And they know how to use it. It is scary - because after I talk to them for five minutes I am not sure anymore if I am smart enough to cross a street. Sometimes then even breathing seems like an overly complex intellectual task - and if you start focusing on that, you start coughing and then you die.
But then again I am flying. All the weight of the the past laden weeks that pulled me to the ground is gone; the bleakness of a long, sleepless winter-night disappears and gives way to a smile -  a ray of sun that illuminates the whole world.
People like that should know of their recharging-power. Never forget to tell them. Somehow. Even if it makes them blush.

Years ago I thought I shouldn't.
And the next day he was gone.
And so was his whole world.

I was wrong.


Sep 4, 2015

10 Ways to Beat Your Boss

Somebody told me: 'start every blog-post with blood!'. I do, sometimes. They get twice as many clicks as the others. Or mention sex. Five times as many clicks.
A combination of both (last post)? One seems to annihilate the other or was it the mention of 'science'?
Some years ago, when everybody claimed that GooglePlus was the Big Thing and Facebook was evil, clicks were still the most important reputation-currency in the virtual world. Shady companies sold 'likes', 'friends' and simple clicks to bolster your ego-metrics.
And in those days I wrote a little snippet about one of the then upcoming blog-sites, which I hated and adored. It stood out in the deluge of self-help sites which babbled about 'ten ways to beat your boss' (and they did not mean physically). This guy essentially wrote about 'ten ways to beat your boss' - and he meant it. Physically.
It was amazing how he built a reputation by an incredibly honest and direct style of writing. He gives away his books for free, he tells you everything about e-publishing, he does not hide. He got thousands of clicks a day then, it must be close to a million a day now. He now sold probably hundreds of thousands of books, has podcasts, lectures, gives speeches, is back to financial advise, interacts wildly on twitter. It is an empire.
I dared to write slightly critical about his blog years ago.
And he contacted me.
He thought I was injust. My blog had about 30 clicks a day - 21 from myself and five from my mother. Still, this huge communication genius seemed genuinely hurt by *one* person on the other side of the atlantic possibly not loving him. And for this and the fact that he told me so, I admire him even more.
I thought I'd tell you.