Weekly Head Voices #11: iCalmDown.

My Tall Philosophical Neighbour (henceforth TPN) blogged today about the iCalmDown, which, as you know, is the latest Apple product released with perhaps a tad too much fanfare this past week. Yes, I do realise that I’m most privileged to have a tall neighbour who’s both philosophical and manages to blog with more regularity than many. In any case, in a cut-and-dried case of keepin’ up with the Joneses, or the TBN in this case, you are now holding in your hands the eleventh edition of the Weekly Head Voices, documenting a selection of events taking place in week 4 of 2010. Please let me know if you’re reading this on your iCalmDown!

SuSE engineers consider this dog to be "quite pretty" and also "so cute and cuddly".

SuSE engineers consider this dog to be "quite pretty" and also "so cute and cuddly".

First I have to get some negative emotions off my chest: I’m currently test-driving the TU Delft’s new standard SuSE Enterprise Linux Edition (SLED) 11 image at work. After two days of using the system and documenting my experiences, I had to switch back to my usual Ubuntu desktop, as my eyes had started bleeding profusely. The SLED desktop takes the concept of “ugly” to places even it feels very dirty having ever visited. Okay, so I might be ever so slightly exaggerating, but there really is almost no comparison with a modern Ubuntu system!

During this past week my productivity has again made the transition from reactive to proactive. This is a usual phenomenon after any long vacation, but it sure is a nice feeling being able to start on things long before they become urgent. It gives me some room to strategise and think about the Big Picture. In the same vein, I (once again) realised that I should spend mornings on the creative and heavier-weight items on my todo list, and reserve the afternoons for meetings (which definitely require creativity, but of a different kind) and more routine tasks. For the past months I have followed the policy of scheduling meetings in the afternoons as far as possible, so my mornings are reserved for tasks that require a few hours contiguously. Luxury!

At the start of an evening with two friends (in line with my anonymisation policy, let’s call them Science Entrepreneur Friend, or SEF, and Extremely Clever Yet Very Social Scientist Friend, or ECYVSSF) that ended with me having so much fun that I managed to get caught on the infamous Dutch nachtnet (trains that take party-goers home at ungodly hours), SEF pointed out that my “to learn and to create” snippet of the previous post reminded him of something of Wilhelm von Humboldt. After some searching I found the [relevant quote][3]:

To inquire and to create;—these are the grand centres around which all human pursuits revolve, or at least to these objects do they all more or less directly refer. Before inquiry can fathom the very essence of things, or penetrate to the limits of reason, it presupposes, in addition to profundity, a rich diversity and genial warmth of soul—the harmonious exertion of all the human faculties combined.

Thank you SEF !

This same evening was characterised by, besides too many Pelgrim Trippels (a strong beer brewed in Rotterdam), much heated discussion on the interaction between science, that is how we attain and disseminate new knowledge about the reality around us, and academia, that is the interesting ecosphere where science mostly takes place, where scientists work in strange and strict hierarchical castes, and the focus on science can easily be lost due to the practicalities and politics of academia.

For all its faults, it is exactly this strange system that makes it possible for me to work closely together with a number of exceptionally bright people, an energising activity that is arguably very much in the spirit of inquiry and of creativity.

On that positive note, have a brilliant week everyone!

[3]: http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=589&chapter=45502&layout=html&Itemid=27 “Link to chapter 8 of Von Humboldt’s “The Sphere and Duties of Government””