Roland DürreFriday March 23rd, 2012
I studied mathematics. Mathematics has a fairly easy structure and there is little dispute about it. The axioms, such as the definition of “whole numbers” seem to be “naturally rooted”; nobody can seriously come up with arguments against them. The rest of the work of a mathematician is deduction in a very formal and strictly logical way. Every statement has to be proved in a very restricted manner. You have to determine whether a statement is “true” or “false”.
In order to make this possible they invented their own “mathematical formula and symbol language”. It is supposed to avoid communicative misunderstandings as good as can be expected.
The not quite so pure natural sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics try to avoid speculations where possible. Instead, they want to describe and explain natural phenomena as correctly as possible. These sciences use mathematics as their tool.
Thus, mathematics, even though it is very abstract and theoretical, is a rather honest science. To be sure, there are probably a few exceptions, for instance in some of the game-theory approaches and in financial mathematics.
But they are not really relevant. Everything else is very reasonable and rational. The older I get, however, the more I enjoy learning about economic sciences, social sciences, psychology including neurology, but also philosophy and history.
This Tuesday and Wednesday, for instance, I attended BALANCE von Prof. Dr. Kathrin Möslein, an economy multi-conference focusing on “innovation” and the future of work-life in Nuremberg. I was even permitted to take part in the podium discussion, where they placed my right next to Prof. Dr. Peter Mertens.
I truly enjoyed the experience. This mixture of economy, social sciences and humanities sounds rather exciting to me and I made quite a few discoveries.
To be sure, from the perspective of a mathematician, there is much that sounds rather vague. Numerous models are designed, assumptions are created and then they are discussed at great length. And it is absolutely necessary to think inter-disciplinarily. This, however, also has the consequence that you will constantly discover ideas that have already been inrtroduced in other disciplines. Or else they have been clear for thousands of years. Regardless, you get a value that is not always directly recognizable or even felt.
I see mathematics as an “assisting science” for all other natural sciences. The “non-natural sciences” work differently. In my perception, they are on the same level and have to be very tightly interwoven in order to be practically useful.
For instance, I notice that economic science is not at its best if it tries to force economical facts into mathematical models. Eventually, those models mostly fail miserably.
For me, economic science will become a positive factor as soon as it connects with the “humanities”. Such as philosophy, but also psychology or social sciences. And perhaps also with natural sciences such as biology.
I would like to call the sum of all sciences “live sciences”!
And this is not an area where we are talking “right” or “wrong”. Neither will you get final results you can apply to politics or society “in engineering fashion”, thus improving the world. Consequently, there is no way I could accept them as “sciences that solve problems” that give us good advice for future behaviour and additional technologies.
It is more like “the journey is the reward”.
The value of life sciences is that they accompany us when we get active and when we make decisions. Also, they inspire us to get thoughtful! It is their task to carry the ideas of a permanently changing world into politics, society and basically all social systems.
(Translated by EG)
Klaus HnilicaThursday March 22nd, 2012
Carl and Gerlinde (XXI)
26 degrees Celsius at Puerto Santiago! Cloudless skies! A steel-blue ocean looking like freshly ironed! And numerous minuscule ships before Gomera …
Gerlinde might easily have been happy in her apartment with the rough-hewn Spanish furniture. But no – for two weeks, she had now suffered from this terrible mental emptiness! Lethargically, without drive and perhaps even desperately, she bravely tried to get rid of this siesta sadness each day.
The horrible ’Kalima’ had thrown in his towel! Thank God for small mercies! She could have continued lying there and dozing under the awning all afternoon.…
But Gerlinde forced herself to get up, bought white bread, bacon, eggs and orange jam at the Calle de Honduras Supermercado and then decided it was high time to visit the ’Salzburg’ at Arena. Seeing Anna! Without Anna, her mouth would have grown stuck together! More often than not, the only person she talked to for several days was Anna …
She had not imagined the complex of bungalows could be quite so deserted at this time of year when she, spontaneously, had decided to spend the winter out here in order to get a grip on the situation with Carl and herself. Neither had this been the case when, ten years ago, she had bought this apartment with Jürgen. At least that had been the impression she got at the time; but then, they had never stayed there for any considerable time in winter, otherwise she would perhaps have noticed the very unstable presence of the English occupation right away: sun-tanned and beer-bellied!
Gerlinde had never told Carl about this little refuge of hers in the Canaries. Of course, Hannelore and Kurt knew about it: after all, they also knew her ex-husband. And Jürgen probably had gotten wind about the fact that her first ’amorous intoxication’ with Carl had now paled. Which is probably why he – not without ulterior motive – had offered her the apartment for ’pondering and meditation’. Of course, it was free for her – and he had promised that he was absolutely not going to intrude on her or molest her in any way!
”Great Indian’s Promise”, he had sweet-talked into the telephone – cute in his own way!
And since he knew only too well how Gerlinde suffered from winter depressions, it was absolutely clear for him that she was going to bite.
After a few mouthfuls of champagne with lavish helpings of Aperol, she even agreed to squeeze into her white cotton dress, press the complementary black straw bonnet on her head and disappear behind her extra-large sun-glasses. All sadness was instantly gone! Encouragingly, she told herself that this new afternoon at the ”Salzburg“ in Arena was going to be approached with relish and she was determined to plunge headlong into evil-doing – hoping that an opportunity for such was soon going to present itself…
Then there was this incident when she was happily strolling along the picturesque promenade towards Arena: a girl standing on top of a single lava rock that protruded far over the ocean! Determinedly, she stared into the depth, where one wave after the other broke on the black lava cliffs. The girl was totally immersed in herself, not taking any notice at all of the passing pedestrians; and they, too ignored her! Perhaps they had seen it all before?
But then, the girl was so tiny, so beautiful, so fragile, wearing her minuscule bikini. But before Gerlinde could cry – no, no don’t do it – the petite figure trembled and immediately afterwards the girl disappeared in the depths without any further ado!
Gerlinde was aghast and hurried towards the rocky edge, but all of a sudden, an athletic young boy looking around sixteen and wearing bathing trunks came running up the promenade path from the lower levels. He happily smiled at her and, without hesitating or looking, he dived headlong far into the ocean. About twenty metres down, his landing on the wavy water was as swift as an eel’s. The two lovers laughed and yelled as they crawled towards each other, embraced and kissed without ever even once looking up towards the few spectators.
As she went further on her way, Gerlinde also laughed. This bizarre happiness made her happy and she suddenly found herself wondering if Carl would ever have jumped after her like this? If not immediately, then after how many glasses of beer? One? Three? Five? Or not at all? Well, and then she wondered why the question had come to her mind? She actually was a little surprised at herself …
As always, Anna had kept a seat for Gerlinde at the “Salzburg“. Without prompting, she brought the Cortado, along with a huge piece of her beautifully crumbly apple cake with cream and a huge bottle of Aqua without glass!
Anna was approaching thirty. She was a good-looking dark-haired lady who had gotten stuck at this place four years ago. But now she already prepared to try her luck elsewhere. And Gerlinde felt drawn towards her…
The dashing cigarillo type – strangely enough, he looked a little like Carl, except he was a lot younger and more athletic – also again sat outside at the corner table with his obligatory “Corriere Della Sera“ and “Welt“. Like yesterday and the day before, he nodded towards her in a friendly manner when their eyes met. But Anna cautioned her! Dottore Sattori is not on the market, she said conspiratorially. For several years, he has now been accompanying a certain Dagmar von Platen, who was a person you did not want to get on the wrong side of.
She was a lady who might quickly see to it that something evil befell you, Anna whispered with a smile. The way she changed topics to talk about those forest fires wreaking havoc on the island for days on end and, like the Amen at church, setting a new hill aflame each night and leaving nothing but desolate, charred soot deserts was a little too hasty. Allegedly, they were originally triggered off by family feuds, knew Anna, but, of course, there was no lack of imitators!
Last night, they had set the hills near the ’Great Gala’ on fire. Anna said that was also why the fire brigades were ceaselessly on the alert and you could even see the huge trails of smoke from outer space. Then she jumped up to quickly serve an Austrian couple who had newly arrived. Apparently, she knew them, too.
Well, and then she had, again, been sitting here deep into the night! Once more, Gerlinde had indulged a little too much; there was not the slightest inclination in her to climb back up the hill she had climbed down at noon. Neither did she feel like rounding the harbour a second time in order to get to her apartment.
Instead, she preferred to pay for the taxi at the opposite side of the street. Unfortunately, Anna, again, could not come. She had to clean the pub, lock the door and deposit the day’s turnover at the bank. What a pity. Anna’s caresses were a balm for her …
Gerlinde felt tired and exhausted when she finally sank onto the sofa of her apartment! Without Anna, without Carl, without Jürgen and without Dottore…
And, again, she had not used the time to ponder about her situation! And it looked like she was not going to do so tomorrow, either, or the day after tomorrow: well, what was this stupid pondering supposed to get her, anyway…
Laughter and sounds of talking from the other houses made her get up again and walk onto the patio. The night was so shamelessly satiny, and on the opposite side, at Gomera, the car’s front lights trembled like fireflies through the protective night. All over the sky, stars seemed to sparkle!
But what good was romantic scenery at night if it was wasted on a patio, thought Gerlinde with a grumpy smile, before indulging in one last ’Carlos’ in order not to start weeping again …
But then the very last drop was also consumed! And the last cigarette was finished!
And when, around midnight, she woke up from her self-pity for a short moment and closed the patio door, she realized with shock that this nightly endeavour had been a fatal error; because, again, one of those ’devilish beasts’ had quickly found its way into her living room …
Oh God, how very much she would now have liked to call for her impossible Carl!
And call is what she did! Yes, she even yelled! Again and again, she yelled: Carl, you monster, this place is full of cockroaches! Cockroaches! Cockroaches! Cockroaches… Huge, disgusting cockroaches!
Carl, you have to kill them. You definitely have to kill them, because I cannot! Don’t you know…
But this abomination of a man was not here! As always when you needed him …
(Translated by EG)
And two weeks from now, on April, 5th, 2012, we will be back with “Carl and Gerlinde”
Here are my tweets of last week on
Blogging and Twitter, Wisdoms and Rules:
120405 Nature beats science – careful, twitterers and bloggers. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120406 Nature and love cannot be salvaged – also true for blogging and twittering. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120407 Next to the ship is a good place to swim – also true for twittering and blogging. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120408 Beside the rod is a good place to jump – is that also true for twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120409 Envy is the fool’s constant misery – something you should not forget when twittering and blogging! #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120410 Envy is the devil’s advocate – also true for twittering and blogging! #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120411 Envy will be its own downfall – is that also true for twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
There is a new tweet each day. See Twitter and “follow” RolandDuerre!
(Translated by EG)
I took the proverbs from Alle deutsche Sprichwörter Alle deutsche Sprichwörter.
Roland DürreTuesday March 20th, 2012
… I wonder if I would still be as driven by numbers as I am now.
As I see it, you cannot do the best of jobs controlling a medium-sized, manageable enterprise by numbers and target setting. On the contrary: I believe it is detrimental if you plan and report too much. The entrepreneur should make better use of his time by taking care of his employees, customers, partners and suppliers.
In order to give reasons for this opinion, let me today compare
professors with entrepreneurs, chairs with enterprises.
Holding a university chair can be compared with owning an enterprise in the brain-working sector, just like a chair holder is like an entrepreneur. The enterprise will be judged for its turnover and profit, along with its growth. So – what are the factors that determine the “performance” or achievement of a university chair?
Let me try to give a few indicators that might serve to evaluate the achievement of a university chair and the professor holding it.
- The number of students attending his lectures and seminars.
What should be the basis: the number of students who “registered” or the number of those who “actually go and listen to the lecture”? Is the relation between the two relevant? What about those who watch the lecture on the internet? What does it mean if the number of students dwindles? If you take this aspect, you would probably have to consider the general tendencies (lower birth-rate, trends). Is the percentage of non-German students relevant for the result of the evaluation? What about the number of female and male students? And how about the number of certificates awarded to the students and the grades they got in examinations?
That is also an area where you might be more sensitive. Maybe you could award extra bonuses for non-obligatory or inter-disciplinary achievements. Or you might distinguish between the grades in major and minor subjects?
- The number of people working for the chair.
Perhaps the average age and the number of women is also relevant?
- The number of diploma and doctorial theses supervised at the chair?
Should you only consider those that actually were finished each year? Or should you also take into account how they were graded and how long it took the students to write them?
- The number of publications by the chair.
Would you have to count the number of publications or the number of pages? And what about the difference between those published in journals with a better reputation, as opposed to less relevant ones?
- The sum of money acquired from third parties.
It might be quite a simple criterion for evaluating the performance of a university chair.
Well, it is quite simple – all you have to do is refine the list a little, then come up with a sophisticated evaluation pattern and then you add the results in order to get a fair evaluation grade.
At first sight, it all sounds quite plausible, doesn’t it? Yet, you will soon find out that it cannot and will not work. There will be very strange consequences, yet the quality of the lectures will not improve. Although they now actually started evaluating the quality of university chairs in precisely this way for the “excellence offensives”.
Thinking in terms of enterprises, it would mean that a good professor would have to increase the number of his students, assistants, doctorial and diploma theses, publications, etc. every year. Until at last the lecture hall will burst. You would have to structure your activities in a very target-oriented way in order to fulfil the relevant criteria. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens – and it causes a flood of doctorial theses at some universities. It is more important to publish than to get excellent results. In fact, in the USA, the number of publications is already on the way up.
Except the quality of a professor should manifest itself in other ways. Basically, all he should be able to do is deliver good research and good teaching. And be a good leader to his team. He should put all his energy into making it possible for his students to learn a lot and making his customers (the students) happy. Then he will be highly regarded in various circles and his reputation and standing will grow.
But isn’t it the same with enterprises and entrepreneurs?
Do you have to – or can you – represent the reality of an enterprise in numbers at all? Do you need all those lists and spread sheets, especially if we are talking small and medium-sized enterprises? Do we need this high degree of precision in the planning process?
First and foremost, you have to invest a lot of precious time in the planning. And then there is the time you need for finding out what went wrong. That is what I call time wasted twice.
What about focussing on the people working in the enterprise and the customers? What about further developing the product, being ready to accept change and allowing good ideas to flourish? What about trying to remain close to reality and establishing a good entrepreneurial culture? Because if you gain those qualities, the numbers will automatically improve. Let it be accompanied by a budgeting that follows common sense in a reasonably economical way and you have all you need.
Neither reading numbers nor reading tea leaves will tell you what mistakes you made with the customers!
And why is it that enterprises always have to grow? Why should entrepreneurs constantly try to find out how they might best increase the turnover and profit? Why not look and see what you can improve, instead? You will not get bored.
Why not restrict yourself to one market, give quality priority over quantity and value over mass?
Isn’t the same true for entrepreneurs as for professors: If they do their job well, the turnover will grow and so will the outcome. Just like this.
So, my dear entrepreneurs, do not bother to analyse your BWA, burden centre, boss sheets and balance sheets for days. Instead, use the time for business, the customers and the employees! For the future!
And, dear Professors, why don’t you do the same? Let the score cards sent by the ministry not affect you.
Improve the quality of research and teaching at your university, take care of the people and the university. And forget criteria and growth.
Simply because we need a better future! As a result, both you and we will constantly get better and the success will come by itself on many levels.
But I notice more and more similarities between entrepreneurs and universities as time goes by. And then I prefer remaining an entrepreneur.
(Translated by EG)
P.S. Click here Drehscheibe for all the articles of my entrepreneur’s diary.
Roland DürreSunday March 18th, 2012
Incidentally, I believe that in our “American-European Culture” (the term is used in the sense as by Edward T. Hall in his book “The dance of life”) the issue of “copyright” has been handled poorly – both socially and legally. In fact, perhaps an unspeakable mistake has been made.
Here is a comment worth watching on this from the TED world. It was found by Dr. Edwin Ederle – thank you, Edwin!
The following question(s) come to mind:
How much and what knowledge can belong to a single person? When are you obliged to share it, so that it belongs to the public? Because thinking in terms of Commons (common land, common property) will probably be relevant if not necessary if we want to solve the problems we face in the 21st century (and later).
I had hardly handed the link with this video on, and already the first comment by Thomas Mathoi in the subject came back. He recommends the free e-book #Incommunicado by @michelreimon (Michel Reimon) as an additional inspiration on the theme of copyright.
After having read the first few pages, I think #Incommunicado is a novel well worth reading and thinking about.
And on top of this, it looks like a very exciting “book” to me. I already downloaded it onto my kindle.
(Translated by EG)
Roland DürreSaturday March 17th, 2012
Back to the “irrational decisions”!
Continuation of Entrepreneur’s Diary #71:
“Notwendigkeit von unvernünftigen Entscheidungen” (The Necessity of Irrational Decisions “).
The InterFace, too, owes its origin to a very irrational decision. Woe if, at the time, we had had a decent person to control us. He would have called us “insane”. How could anybody try and strive towards such a utopian idea? With ZERO chance of success.
In retrospect, I am actually surprised how something so weird could have worked. All reasonable and rational arguments were certainly against what we had planned. Today, if asked, I would probably advise against what we did at the time.
Our most severe case of irrationality was when we, as “newcomers” and “nobodies” wanted to develop a UNIX text system. There were two of us, along with a few students. And in the process, we actually wanted to try to earn enough money for us and the students to live on quite well. Which meant that you had to delete the term “two of us” from the above sentence, because basically only the students were left.
What happened was the success story of HIT/CLOU. And a few years later, there was a time span of ten years during which Siemens AG created more turnover with HIT/CLOU than with their second SINIX product (which they also had taken under licence), the data base Informix of RDS (that was still the name of Informix for some time) .
At the time, we started developing HIT and CLOU with a colourful selection of young people. It happened against all rational business thinking, simply because we wanted to own a software product of our own.
Since data bases were too complex and the communication technology underwent a total re-structuring, we decided to develop an “electronic typewriter”. … To us, that seemed easier. So we took a closer look at the old “brother” and text machines such as Triumph-Adler and implemented the entire thing anew and a little better on UNIX. How simple the world can be.
And a few years later, we became the market leader in Europe – not just on SINIX, but on many UNIX systems of many producers!
Simultaneously, Siemens AG tried to develop a series of editors. At their place, the product planning team had more members than our entire development, project and sales units. They had planned everything “rationally”, developed it in the classical way and supplied huge budgets. With expensive developers and super consultants.
And still they failed again and again!
Incidentally, Siemens AG made a turnover of 500 million DM during the aforementioned ten years with HIT/CLOU. It is quite possible that, during the same period, they invested more money for all the new developments of theirs that failed either technologically or economically.
Those products were failures due to poor technological competence, such as the demand for a common (!) interface for BS2000, UNIX and DOS. I remember quite well some discussions about what nonsense such a venture was. These were discussions I took part in.
And if, for a change, they were not a failure technologically, then they failed on the market, like with ComfoText against Microsoft.
And everybody asked how it was possible that the small InterFace Connection GmbH with its limited budget could manage to do things that were out of reach for the huge Siemens AG with all the millions they invested and all those many planners, engineers, developers, testers.
Well, the reasons were quite simple: an irrational decision, the enthusiasm of great persons in a super team, an agile procedure, many partners and a little luck – and here we were working!
So here is the second part of my appeal to make “irrational decisions”. Even if they cost money and will worsen the results. We still need them in order to do great things. And, basically, there is something great to every enterprise.
(Translated by EG)
Click Drehscheibe for all the articles of my entrepreneur’s diary.
Roland DürreFriday March 16th, 2012
As far back as I can remember, I have always loved shorts. Even when I was at school, in summer there was nothing else an option but wearing the leather shorts. Even when it rained. We are talking the 1950ies.
Then came life as a student and a professional. And the shorts disappeared from my life. With the exception of sports and at home in the garden or when camping, it was out. Because some way or other, it was taboo to go to work wearing shorts – let alone if you went to a business meeting with a customer.
How I often envied the girls when they whirled around wearing short skirts or airy dresses in summer!
Consequently, I will now practice equal rights – and I have the best of intentions to do without the long leg cover this year whenever the temperatures halfway allow it.
If there is anybody who feels disavowed having to see me in shorts and with unprotected legs, I hereby already ask their forgiveness.
(Translated by EG)
Roland DürreThursday March 15th, 2012
Currently, quite a few freelancers and entrepreneurs offering services are probably just as angry as I am. The due dates of big enterprises get longer and longer. They just extend the dates without ever consulting us – neither do they care what the contracts say.
If I remember correctly from the days when I leaned economy at school, the German law (BGB) says that payment for a service is due when the service has been rendered. Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it, because you can hardly deliver a service and afterwards demand that you still own the product, can you? If there is an expert among you who knows better, please enlighten me …
Now, however, we live in a time when more and more absurd laws are installed. Said laws, however, are ignored more and more often. Perhaps because they are so absurd. And since in our times “the end justifies the means“ and the end mostly is defined exclusively by profit, the ancient business codes no longer play any role.
So what do I do about it?
I get annoyed. And I pay the bills of service providers in time. To be sure, it increases our risk. But it gives us faithful providers and a good feeling.
Here are my tweets of last week on
Blogging and Twitter, Wisdoms and Rules:
120329 Slander will not sleep – careful! – twitterers and bloggers. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120330 If it sits close to the window, the wax will melt – careful! – bloggers and twitterers. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120331 Close to the wine is far from the centre of events – dangerous also for twitterers and bloggers. #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120401 Jesters say what they like – something you also find among twitterers and bloggers? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120402 Jesters, too, are humans – you should accept it, even when twittering and blogging! #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120403 A jester’s bells give a loud ring, but they hurt the ears – also when twittering and blogging! #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
120404 Clownish questions will get you clownish answers – is that how I behave when twittering and blogging? #Twitter #Blogging #Wisdom
There is a new tweet each day. See Twitter and “follow” RolandDuerre!
(Translated by EG)
I took the proverbs from Alle deutsche Sprichwörter.
Roland DürreTuesday March 13th, 2012
In a no longer quite recent report published by the “Spiegel”, Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data security and information freedom commissary, warns against data security problems with IPv6 addresses.
“Up to now, a well-informed and bright user could protect his informational right to self-determination about having anonymous internet access. With the introduction of the IPv6 protocol, there is now the threat that this will become totally impossible. The new internet addresses give a lot more information about the user and he can be identified for life.”
Is it really necessary for us to be anonymous as we make our way through the internet? In my opinion, the anonymity is one of the evils of the internet. Spam is only one of the negative consequences (a harmless one).
After all, in the real world, we also show our faces. When we meet people, the first thing we do is introduce ourselves. When we write an article, we sign it with some abbreviation for our full name. Letters also have a sender. As I see it, said sender should be visible on the envelope. The minimum requirement is definitely that you should at least know where a letter came from as soon as you have opened it.
As I see it, the “anonymous publication of your opinion” is only justified as a sort of self-defence if you live under a rule of injustice. But not in a civil community where justice prevails. In such a country, we should really be able to afford saying even inconvenient things publicly. Instead of having to go “underground”. Because that is exactly what “appearing anonymously” means!
Just like civil courage and “constructive disobedience” can never be anonymous.
(Translated by EG)
Note the choice of words: “protect his informational right to self-determination about having anonymous internet access” …
The only place where you can be anonymous is abroad. But there, you will also be treated as an alien.