There is a guide to excellence, which may save many detours and delays: it is the middle way, the golden mean. The qualities of character can be arranged in triads, in each of which the first and last qualities will be extremes and vices, and the middle quality a virtue or an excellence.
So between cowardice and rashness is courage; between stinginess and extravagance is liberality; between sloth and greed is ambition; between humility and pride is modesty; between secrecy and loquacity, honesty; between moroseness and buffoonery, good humour; between quarrelsomeness and flattery, friendship; between Hamlet’s indecisiveness and Quixote’s impulsiveness is self-control.
Recently, I’ve started reading and trying to understand some pure mathematics – particularly the abstract algebra (Category theory). There was a question from someone asking why am I doing that to myself, instead of making “something useful”. I understood the question, given that I’m an engineer by training, so I’m used to applied mathematics, which has concrete uses. But I didn’t have an answer. So what’s the use of learning all the terminology and abstract concepts ?
Then I found this in Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy:
[learn the specialist’s language], as the specialist had learned nature’s, in order to break down the barriers between knowledge and need, and find for new truths old terms that all literate people might understand.
For if the knowledge became too great for communication, it would degenerate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of authority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worshiping at a respectful distance its new priests; and civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon a technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth rate of terminology.
I think that explains why I’m trying to learn the language of the specialists.
It started with a humdrum business trip to Thailand for Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz. He stumbled across the drink and apparently discovered that it ‘cured’ his jet lag. In partnership with Thai inventor Chaleo Yoovidhya they launched a version of the Thai drink slightly modified to suit European tastes. The rest, as they say, is history.
Last Friday and Saturday I attended another Hackathon :Hack Food Waste in Eindhoven, where diverse people worked on hacking up solutions for tackling food waste. After listening to one of the problems, which was food waste in International Trade, I pitched the idea for an app:
10% of all the potatoes grown are left on the land to rot. Import export regulations prevent well-functioning global market place. TradeWise (our app), using regulation data and real-time market prices (shipping, product prices) helps famers to tap into global market to export the surplus produce.
There were three other people interested in joining my team and we hacked till Saturday evening.
After struggling a bit with the Dutch governments “open” data – which was basically a partial SOAP API for the categories, we managed to present our idea in a coherent way. The judges liked the idea enough to give us the second prize!
I’m still thinking about the next steps and possibilities of making the weekend-hack into a real application.