Birds in Art

The more I look at the painting, the more my gaze wanders from the face of the old, shabby-looking woman to the owl at her shoulder. The owl here stands for drunkenness and bad, vulgar behaviour. In the 18th century there was the expression “as drunk as an owl”. The picture hangs in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, which was painted by Frans Hals in 1630 is called Malle Babbe1, 2. Owls are also considered wise because of their sharpened senses and night vision abilities, which already fascinated the ancient Greeks. The owl was the companion animal of the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of Athens and the goddess of wisdom.

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 It doesn’t always have to be goose

What do you have to eat on Christmas Eve? In some German families, sausages with potato salad are a tradition. Or carp with potato salad. When I was a child, there was a lot of excitement at first because we children were not allowed in the living room because the tree had been decorated by our parents and was supposed to be a surprise (it looked the same every year). Then came the giving of the presents, followed by a 3-course meal, a sinful gluttony. Because at 11 pm we all staggered into Christmas mass, drowsy and our bellies full. That was the “family tradition” for many years. Today I experience it quite differently. Let me describe how we will probably celebrate Christmas Eve.

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Learn to love silence

After I had recently done a one-minute (!) focussing exercise at the beginning of a retrospective, one participant remarked that he could never get used to these “esoteric” exercises. We then had a minor altercation about silence and how difficult many people find it to endure silence. Loving silence has nothing to do with the esoteric.

In my role as a facilitator, I have become a friend of silence. And my route there was not easy. I like to talk and passionately, when I do. I am sometimes impulsive and too quick for others. Through experience I have learned to keep quiet and to listen very carefully, especially when someone else is speaking. If you were to ask some of my colleagues how much progress I have made, they will probably say she is still practising. That’s how I see it too, it’s an ongoing exercise to become quiet and stay quiet. I am happy about every step I take towards stillness away from the deluge of noise.

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Crime Scene Front Garden (Part 3)

Of child murderers and disturbers of the peace

There are also some kestrels breeding in my neighbourhood. Incidentally, they are not related to birds of prey, but to parrots. Once made aware of this peculiarity, one can see some parallels between the two species, e.g. in flight, motion on the ground and beak design. But that’s not what I wanted to write about. Kestrels, like tits, lay their eggs at intervals of a few days, so that some of the children will develop further than the stragglers. As a result, the older ones beg more loudly for food and are thus attended to more quickly and grow faster. And in years of shortages, such as this year 2022, only the older ones are then fed. The younger ones starve. This is a survival strategy of birds called cainism. This behaviour is also known in storks when there is a food shortage in their breeding area.

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Crime Scene Front Garden (Part 2 after all)

Of swindlers, robbers and executioners

The stories told here are not for the faint-hearted. According to human moral standards, they are all about the rejection of all ethical behaviour and the deep abyss of social machinations. Things get really bad in the bird kingdom. So think twice: do you really want to read on? I warned you….

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State of matter with second time dimension makes quantum computers more robust

When I recently spotted the title in a science journal, my first thought was: Huh? (Hessian for Whaaaaat????) I understand the individual words, but I don’t know what they mean together.

I remember an episode when my brother happened to be standing in my office and overheard me talking to a colleague about a current IT project. When the colleague had left the room, my brother asked: “What were you actually talking about? I didn’t understand a word. What kind of gibberish was that?” He is a lawyer and therefore at home in his own language.

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Crime Scene Front Garden (Part 1)

Of foreboding in nature

Jersey Tiger

This is not about your unease as a mighty thunderstorm front approaches, although this spectacle of nature could also be worth an article in Harlequin, especially if there is a theatre of clouds in the sky (look up and discover, as I did, your grandmother as a cloudy silhouette). And it’s not about mosquitoes either, which are, after all, known as awe-ful bloodsuckers of mammals and thus also transmit diseases. Nor is it about ticks, which, once they have bitten into a mammal, grow larger and larger and only occur at altitudes of up to 1,200 metres.

Today it’s really about crime stories, S&M practices, pretense and deceit. And all this in nature. And it’s about small and tiny creatures trying to hold their own in a world of eating and being eaten with artifice, guile and trickery.

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My favourite feathered friend

I’m visiting friends in Hamburg, who live on the 5th floor of a modern house with a small garden. And early in the morning at 4:30 a.m. I am woken by the piercing chirping of my favourite bird, Troglodytes troglodytes. This animal alarm clock is the loudest loudmouth (between 40 and 90 decibels!) in relation to its body size (about 10 cm) in the diverse ornithological kingdom: my favourite bird, the wren. With its tail always up when it sings, it acts with great self-confidence. The male belts out “with warbles and trills and ends abruptly. It (the song) is composed of about 130 different sounds.” (Wikipedia)

According to a very old fable, it also reputed to be a trickster who likes to fool other animals.  In order to escape the revenge of the aggrieved, he is said to lurk mostly in hedges and bushes. Trickster or not, I like the little fella, even at 4:30 in the morning, when he is the first to open the dawn chorus.

An algorithm has no tact

Where artificial intelligence gets it wrong, why it affects us and what we can do about it

I am not a specialist in Computer Science issues, but have been at home in the IT environment for many years as an Agile coach and organisational developer. I can recommend the book with the title above especially to “non-IT people” like me who want to take a closer look at the cryptic and not easily accessible topic of artificial intelligence and associated algorithms. In casual language, the author explains to us what algorithms are, how they work, what difficulties the unrestricted use of algorithms entails and at what point we can (and must) exert influence on their uncontrolled use. Katharina Zweig is a professor of Computer Science at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, where she heads the Algorithm Accountability Lab and is the founder of the “Socio-informatics” degree programme, which is unique in Germany.

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Shaping the career exit

This is another contribution by our guest author Christoph Henties, who is no stranger to loyal readers of the Thank you, Christoph!

Planning the next step

The End is My Beginning is the title of the autobiographical Spiegel bestseller by Tiziano Terzani. The book is a hymn to the possibility of being what you want to be. The journalist and writer begins a wonderful conversation about the venture of freedom, about courage, love, sickness and grief, about transience, moments of beauty and how you can learn to let go.

A fresh start at work is not easy. Replacing well-known structures and organisations with familiar people with something new and developing curiosity for the unfamiliar is a challenge. Anyone who has changed jobs more often will find it easier.

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