Motivation

motivation

Like many of us I am participating in several social media platforms. Of course I am as well posting my blog articles and sometimes I comment on other people’s postings or even share them so they are visible on my own profile and my contacts can see them too. Many of these platforms provide you with information of how many people have viewed, commented or shared a posting. So far the numbers seemed random to me. Until I started having a closer look at them and to it and analysing what kind of postings gained the most attention. Do you think that it was one of my own articles or anything else that asked more time form the viewer? You didn’t and you are right since this is definitely not the case. Do you know what people – and I find myself among them – read the easiest and are most likely share? It is all these motivational quotes that make us smile think or laugh. They could be sorted into three categories.

Celebrity Quotes

With the right name behind a quote one can sell almost anything. No matter how meaningless the words may be if someone famous said so it will be shared. I tend to compare it with paintings. A lot of people only would recognize an artwork as good if it says “Picasso”.

“Wisdom In A Nutshell”

This category consists mainly of quotes about how to reach goals and not to give up but to stick with one’s goals and to keep going. This is just one example but they all say the same things in different words: “You are going to want to give up. Don’t!”

Fun

Fun is a bestseller. Some weeks ago I found the following picture in LinkedIn – sorry, I don’t know its origin or owner – but since I couldn’t stop laughing about it I shared it. It has since been liked and shared over and over.

tattoo-en

And the Moral of the Story

The pessimists among us are now certainly complaining about people not wanting to read anymore and a world that is going to the dogs. I think that life simply is a fulltime job and sometimes we forget why we are doing what we do and just need a role model or a motivational shower to adjust our point of view or to cheer up. Have a fun-motivated week.

The Watchmaker’s Art

breguet

Abraham Louis Breguet was born in Neuchâtel (the French speaking part of Switzerland) in 1747. When he was 15 he arrived in Paris where he studied watchmaking.

Invention

Breguet belongs to this remarkable kind of people who really leave large footprints. Abraham Louis was already a star during his lifetime. The different inventions in his field made him famous. In 1780, he sold his first automatic perpétuelle watches. Please find a larger list of his inventions.

Business

Moreover, he was a brilliant business man. Besides being appointed the official watchmaker of the French Navy Napoléon Bonaparte and the Russian Tsar belonged to his clients. For Napléon’s sister Caroline who was the Queen of Naples he created the first wrist watch.

My personal favorite among all his inventions is the watch you see on the picture. It is a so called tact medallion and this one was sold to Joséphine Bonaparte in 1800. Yes, you are right; it has only one hand (in this case the crown and the initials) which is enough as long as you are happy to know the hour. The diamonds on the edge represent the hour and the owner could even feel the time by his or her fingers.

Modern Times

The company still exists and still sells high-end watches of which each one has an identification number; like in ancient times. Please see for yourself.

Impressions

The Intranet On Paper

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The Internet is omnipresent. It is available in every household and in each enterprise. Almost all companies have as well an intranet which is accessible only to the employees and contains internal information. Depending on the size of an enterprise the intranet comprises an internal phone book, organisation charts, documents employees can give to their customers if required, product or service descriptions maybe a job portal or success stories of important projects.

If the company is technically very advanced and has an affinity to social media one will find videos of manager’s speeches.

In general, it is assumed that a web platform is always up to date. If this is not the case it is about as helpful as the newspapers of two months ago. Needless to say that even this expectation is justified it is not always fulfilled.

Talking About Newspapers

Some days ago I found something like the paper version of the intranet. Yes, I admit that I investigated for shoes; a weakness I share with many other women. But my inquiries returned some interesting results. I found the house journal of Bally a very renowned Swiss shoe factory. The editions I discovered where all from 1941 and since the journal appeared monthly it was probably more newsworthy than many modern intranet portals.

This house journal contained information about employees, such as anniversaries, new arrivals and company leaves. Unbelievably, many people stayed for 40 or even 50 years with the company. This is so to speak the intranet part.

Bally’s company magazine consisted as well of an external part of which I think people were supposed to read in their spare time. After all, today’s employers are hardly crazy about staff that surfs the Internet just for fun during office hours. But it is to say that Bally did not have to care about the moral aspect of their employees’ readings. The journal’s subtitle says it all: “Literary and Advertising Part from Hearth and Home” is the English translation. After browsing it I can assure you that the journal’s content is instructive, rather unsophisticated and – dead sure! – harmless and G-rated! The filtering process which nowadays has to be performed by proxy servers and firewalls has already been accomplished by the editorial office.

Not a single moment I am mourning after the newspaper and nothing could motivate me to give back the Internet. I am aware that every keystroke can be recorded and depending on the environment will be. But I can be very sure that the stuff I am spreading here will not appear in the archive of any library 70 years later but will merge in the masses. If I want to be archived I have to publish a book or – even better – do my doctorate and immediately stop pondering upon shoes.

The Cloudy IT Sky

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If we see clouds in the sky either the weather is not so clear or at least we don’t know what the day – meteorologically spoken – bestows upon us. As individuals we have no influence on the weather hence we just accept it.

The antic playwright Aristophanes (abt. 450 BC) wrote a comedy called “Clouds” in which a cloud-choir represents the misty realm of ghosts and spirits. The very same poet invented for another play a republic called “Cloud cuckoo land” which was ruled by birds. The German language still uses this notion for an imaginary and unreal place.

Clouds

Against this background it is rather astounding that the IT industry came up with the idea to name one of the most important services actually offered “cloud computing”. One could easily think that our precious data are sent to some foggy Nirvana. And with some of these services this is the case.

Please let me explain. These clouds consist of the same components as everything else within IT: hardware, meaning real servers and computers which are controlled by software. The difference is that you do not have to save and backup your data on your own local device but it is stored on your provider’s servers. You simply receive a login which enables you to reach for your information from everywhere on the planet. Ok, you need an internet connection. Frankly, this concept is fantastic.

Basically, there are two cloud concepts:the public cloud (which is often free of charge for home users) and the private version. The experts among you will now object that there was a hybrid version.

This is true but not subject of this article. While in a private cloud the hardware and the software are only used by one enterprise and their employees the users of the public cloud services have to share the infrastructure and typically do not know the location of the servers let alone who is taking care of the data and what is the frequency of the backup. The German Fraunhofer-Institute published a study about cloud security.

And Now?

While meteorological clouds follow the same laws of nature everywhere IT clouds do not; at least according to the results of the survey mentioned above. There is no international agreement or law that sets the rules about data management and security guidelines.

For this reason the users can outsource their data but not the responsibility for it. Please don’t get me wrong. I do not want to talk you out of cloud computing but simply remind you to choose the provider carefully.

After all, it is not the rain cloud’s fault if we are drenched of rain because we forget the umbrella.

Abstract Language

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In the very first article about words I mentioned that even mathematics uses a language although it consists of formulas. For instance the notion “radical”: Since we are in the realm of mathematics we know that it is not about a radical change or opinion but the name of a certain mathematical function which is represented by the symbol √. For the insiders these formulas are the tool to stenographically describe complex mathematical problems.

A programming language is extremely formalised and certainly nobody’s mother-tongue; things it has in common with mathematics. Just like “real” languages every computer language has a syntax that rules the order of the program elements. This is why a website can be opened by a browser and computer programmes work.

Language and Information Technology

But the abstraction goes even further. Information technology only works with 0 and 1 and still is able to display, print, save, play and copy music, images, films and text files. Of course the zeros and the ones have to be combined in specified orders, allowing each component to deliver the expected result.

Some of you will argue that the word “language” is related to “tongue” (Latin lingua) and therefore always comprises spoken communication. I cannot deny this objection but maybe I can use the following examples to show that formulas can lead to “real” languages.

While I am typing on my PC my fingers are running over the keyboard where a certain letter is assigned to each key. Every key stroke enters the respective digital combination into the computer. Since human senses are analogue my screen is not showing me some weird pattern of zeros and ones but legible text. Language is being digitally decomposed and analogically recomposed which as you see bestows flows of words and pictures upon us.

The Latin Letters

Even the Latin alphabet is an abstraction. Each letter represents a sound which means that every word can be “atomically decomposed”. For this reason we can cope with a relatively simple keyboard.

Before you ask; Chinese keyboards do not consist of thousands of keys to represent all syllables of the language. There are two solutions for this. The first one is an English keyboard, which comprises not only the Latin letters but the root characters of the Chinese language from which words can be “constructed”. This requires a lot of practice.

The second possibility is based on phonetics and the writer has to be familiar with the English language. The writer uses the Latin letters and enters the pronunciations according to the English rules. A list of the relevant Chinese characters appears and the user chooses the correct one. No doubt this process slows the writing down but as it seems it is easier to learn than the “constructing method”.

The ancient philosopher Democritus (abt. 460 BC) is the inventor of atomism. His thesis says that there was only emptiness and atoms. In other words what is not filled by atoms is void.

Meanwhile atom splitting has been developed but the system of 0 and 1 obeys the same rule and it has conquered the world.

All along the way from Democritus to nowadays the binary logic seems to be omnipresent. Was the logic first; even before the word?

Censorship: The Fear of Language

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In my last article I claimed that it often takes time for scientific and philosophical debates to go public. This is not always what the authors want.

Censorship is a symbol of fear of words that describe unapproved thoughts. But I have to admit that I cannot get rid of the idea that the consequences depend as much on the content as on its representative.

The Same but not Equal

We are in the year 1600 and Giordano Bruno just died. Bruno, a philosopher and clergy man alleges that the Earth is spinning around the sun and that there are many different solar systems. The church on the other hand adapted Aristotle’s philosophy in as much as they claim that there was only one world and even more that the sun is rotating around the (motionless) Earth. Giordano Bruno did not die in 1600 because it was his Maker’s will but on the stake which has been ordered by the church.

In 1610 Galileo Galilei published his work „Sidereus Nuncius“, which describes his discovery of the Moons of Jupiter that he can see with his telescope. This brought him fame, wealth and envy.

But his conviction that the Earth is in motion and rotating around the sun brought him in serious trouble. In 1635 the papal tribunal grounded him and while he still could receive visitors he was not allowed to leave his manor in Florence until his death in 1642.

Absolutism

Our subject is the fear of words. The church as the mightiest institution at the time clothed their claim to power in words which were indisputable. Disputing these words was equal to disputing the institution and its power itself.

This is the system of all absolutistic regimes; no matter if they are ecclesial or secular. But why are the reactions of the same institution of the same epoch so different?

Results

In our example it is certainly not the rhetoric of the scholars; both of them are very provocative. In one case private words have been spoken before: Galileo was well renowned and had some influential friends. The pope was his friend long before he got the Apostolic See. So it might well be that this circumstance prevented Galileo from an untimely death. The pope was an educated man and well aware that those words should not go public unless he wanted his devote believers to turn into a secular horde beyond control.

Despite all threads the Copernican system finally prevailed. Slowly but surely the words yielded results. One more point. Copernicus was a clergy man but nobody tried to cut him short during his lifetime. Au contraire: Cardinal Schoenberg encouraged him to publish his writings which Copernicus literally delayed until his final day. The astronomer studied the writings of some Pre-Socratics (abt. 600 BC) to find reassurance for his own theory.

You see, it took heliocentrism a lot of time to be worded. Until the present day censorship of the press is normal in many countries. I cannot help it but I suspect that this vests the unspoken words and the thoughts behind them with even more power.

After all forbidden things are always more interesting, aren’t they?

Words of Change

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Some time ago I participated in a very lively discussion about the question if and how literature can change society and its judgement about certain facts.

While the philosophers regretted that their own texts apparently showed no immediate effect they categorized some works as reasons for some profound changes. One example is the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which is said to be a milestone in the abolition of slavery. So, what are the philosophers doing wrong?

Well, they follow the rules of their discipline which says that a thesis has to be confirmed or disproved by means of logical and stringent arguments. Philosophy does not provide us with a poetic license and refers only to one’s intellect. There is no need to like or to approve a theory in order to understand it. Moreover, a lot of debates are kept within the scientific community while novels are explicitly written for the general public.

World Literature

I frankly admit that I still do not know why some literature belongs to the classics but it seems to me that these texts stirred up a lot of emotions and discussions when they first appeared. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” for example describes a slave as a human being with feelings and thoughts while most of white people would think of him as of an asset and a “workhorse”. The protagonist is a man, a Christian and the father of a family. Still, he is being sold due to a financial crisis. The author portrays the feelings which go along with this situation. Such texts are addressed to the reader’s heart which is probably more efficient than talking to one’s intellect.

Or do you honestly believe that decisions are made by logic? Since the intellect is constantly searching for the pros and cons I rather think that we use these reasons to justify our decisions. Post mortem, so to speak.

The Right Word at the Right Time

From my point of view there is another important factor: the right word at the right time. The discussion about slavery or its abolition was already in full swing when Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous book. Not to belittle her achievement but she wrote about a hotly disputed topic which certainly ignited a lot more emotions than any linguistic debate ever will.

But far be it from me to say that philosophical texts had no effects. It just takes more time and some of these texts seem to be immune to the ravages of time. Whenever we discuss about freedom or human rights there is one philosopher who is unavoidable. His name is Immanuel Kant and he lived from 1724 to 1804.

On the other hand there are scientific insights and discoveries that would have come like bombshells; if they were not held back by the authorities. But this is the subject of the next article.

Nothing but Words

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The first line of the Gospel of John says: “From the first he was the Word…” This is of course the translation of the Greek original. One could argue that the Greek notion “logos” has about two dozens of different meanings; for example “logic” or “reason”. This article is neither a critique of the translation of the bible nor a course in philology but it deals with the power of words. According to Goethe’s “Faust” not words but actions are the beginning of it all. No matter what comes first, it seems as if words and actions are the two sides of the same coin. Facing such consequences it might be wise to treat our language with care.

Philosophers

Philosophers started thinking about the use of language thousands of years ago. Plato for example was pondering on the question if notions have a “natural” meaning or if they only receive it by convention. Alice met Humpty Dumpty in Wonderland. The egg-shaped man stated that the words he uses had exactly the meaning he wants them to have. I seriously doubt this. As we know words change their meanings in the course of time. Moreover, some notions have several meanings; some even in contradiction to each other.

Speak and Think

What really troubles me is that some language analysts claim that we only can produce thoughts by means of language. They use this as the reason why animals cannot think. I wonder about the consequence of this theory. Does this mean that people who were born deaf with no adequate education cannot think? This is as if we would say they are no humans, isn’t it?

To me this is revolting, especially because history has shown us the result of such believe. Therefore my thesis is that language is the form of expression of thoughts and only parrots think that words are there origin.

On the other hand language is probably apt to express our thoughts more comprehensible than pictures, music or dance. For the latter the layman needs interpretation. So let’s stick with the words. After all a blog has not much more to offer and the entire social media industry, public relation, teaching and management depend on them.

Even mathematics uses a language which is condensed in formulas and the information technology is dealing with 0 and 1.

Interested? Please read more within the next weeks.