Airport of Mind

Traveller in a world of thoughts

How To Be Nice

This is just a quick link share, but a nice reminder how to spark a little joy or a light up a smile on the other’s face. And who wouldn’t like to make someone a little happier?

#7 Give some props. Open iMessage right now (or whatever chat client you prefer) and tell someone they are doing a great job and don’t ask for anything in return.

Heraclitus and Me or Am I Constant Over Time?


What makes us the very person we are when we change so much over time? What is the constant between the baby me and me of today? Aren’t that two entirely different human beings?

These questions seem weird but from a philosophical standpoint they are significant since we usually hold the belief of unity and consistency of ourselves as persons over time. But is that a justifiable belief and what is it based upon? Do we just relate to our unique genom as glue between the different forms or configurations of ourselves? For an assignment for one of my Greek philosophy class at University of British Columbia (with the superb professor Michael Griffin) I elaborated a little one these questions on the course blog in relation to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who may have been one of the first to acknowledge the idea of change a few centuries before the birth of Christ. Have a look if you like!

New Yorker: The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel


This article has been posted on my Timeline quite frequently already but that doesn’t stop me from featuring it once more here. It is in typical New Yorker fashion a long read, but George Packer achieves to give a superb explanation of the person Angela Merkel, as of today certainly the most powerful woman in the world. It made me understand her a lot better (even as a politically interested) and beyond offered a comprehensive view on public opinion as well as how politics work in Germany. This is a must read!
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Harvard — Reward or Stigma?

“I’ve graduated from Harvard.” Most people would think this is one greatest rewards to achieve in higher education. And the Times Higher Education ranking clearly shows that Harvard is by far the strongest higher education brand. So, it must be the greatest reward, right? Well, a very recent conversation about the Ivy League universities in the United States got me thinking in an act of sacrilege: could graduating from Harvard not also be seen as a stigma?

In Germany the debate about introducing quotas for women on company’s board of directors is still going strong. And while recent studies mostly suggest that gender diversity pays off in terms of corporate performance, there hasn’t been much action to ensure more women than before are given their fair chance to participate in highest executive committees. Especially the way to achieve more gender diversity that is well debated upon. This holds true for all sorts of diversity issues in general.

The underlying problem with any taken action is the potential of stigmatization. Imagine two almost identical candidates applying for just one spot, let it be a job or a place in a prestigious institution, with the only difference of one diversity-relevant feature. If the candidate with this particular feature is picked over the other, they face a dilemma: not knowing if they were chosen for their personality respectively profile or for this feature. And because this mostly isn’t concealed behind impenetrable walls stigmatization by fellow colleagues or such is likely.

Now consider to apply this scheme to Harvard. Taking a step back from the glorious reputation Harvard enjoys to declutter your sight: couldn’t having graduated from Harvard make you prone to (maybe positive in the consequence, but still) stigmatization? Would it be a stretch to imagine the situation in which you are not sure why XYZ hired you, because of your personality or because you graduated from Harvard, the most prestigious university in the world? Would it be a stretch to imagine your colleagues whispering behind your back that you only got this position because with your admission to Harvard you were also admitted to a well functioning, worldwide network of influential people to help their peers out if the time was to come?

This is just a rough sketch of some sudden thoughts, so bear with me. And this issue would probably apply to all Ivy League universities—yet foremost to Harvard nonetheless. Though for sure offering a great education and environment for their students, one has to keep in mind that they also nurture a perpetuating circle of some kind of social elite which comprises of the most wealthy and influential families. For an outsider there is just no other way to explain how else certain offsprings of influential political families in the US made it to Harvard (or else) at all.

Hello November! or It’s Already Half Way Over

Hello November, that went fast! I didn’t expect you until in a bit, but, swooosh, you’re already here and remind me that my time in Canada is fairly limited, quite unfortunately. Isn’t strange to undergo a complete change of mind from a rather reluctant and struggling stance in the first couple weeks to a very relaxed and confident attitude? Maybe it’s the fate of the traveler to face struggles and to find ways to get more comfortable with oneself. I certainly did because at one point I deliberately decided to enjoy myself and the time I have the chance to be in Vancouver to the fullest — in my and not someone else’s way. But it’s not that, I also met wonderful people, made great friends and hopefully strengthened existing ones. Eventually it all boils down to the people which surround and care about you. Appealing to Adam Smith and to his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”, he didn’t come up with the following insight into human nature out of nowhere:

Humanity does not desire to be great, but to be beloved.

The “Theory of Moral Sentiments” is one of Smith’s great works, which I really enjoyed reading. We were covering it in my “History of Philosophy and Economics” class, next up is the “Wealth of Nations”, his magnum opus.

Since I’m on a tight schedule to pick up my girlfriend from the airport in just a bit, let me throw in and summarise some tidbits of my experiences and on-going observations with some bullet points (not necessary the tool a good writer, but whatever):

  • School (or rather university) is fun and most of all interesting, but I feel the on-going workload is indeed higher. In general it occurs to me that quantity is more valued but the expectations in terms of quality for each assignment are less. But I might as well be biased or too less informed. In any way, I’m glad that I’m not taking a full workload because that’s really keeping you busy to an extent which is just not something I’d like be when I’m on exchange. There’s always than school to explore and to learn.
  • This is a random change of topic, but: hell, you smell a lot of weed when walking through Vancouver. The authorities are quite lenient in terms of Marijuana, so it’s not too rare to see people on the street with joints. Probably more likely than with cigarettes which almost seem to be banned from the public altogether.
  • I might have emphasised it already but let me do it again: it rains a lot in Vancouver. This is due to Vancouver’s unique setting, also being in a former rainforest region. Strangely the rain here bugs me less than in Germany and doesn’t make me feel being locked in at home or anything. Maybe there’s indeed no bad weather, instead there’s just inappropriate gear. A waterproof raincoat and possibly a rain cover for your backpack is considered a must-have in Vancouver.
  • One aspect I really like about this city is how commercial and residential areas are so intertwined and not so much separated. Obviously, I’m not necessarily taking about the very heart of commercial downtown, but there are quite a few areas with great, often independent stores where you just have turn on a corner and you’re immediately in a fine residential area. I don’t feel able to judge if that’s a particular quality of Vancouver, but I find it very comforting, just because it emphasises how businesses are embedded in communities and are essentially driven by normal people. Maybe it gives hindsight to a stronger entrepreneurship spirit too, but that’s just a guess.
  • I recently had to pick up a friend from Vancouver’s Airport YVR and I once again realised it’s probably the greatest airport in the world. Due to the mostly carpeted floor the overall noise is just way lower than you’d expect it from an airport. It’s also full of First Nations art objects which gives it a nice, welcoming touch. Obviously, YVR couldn’t handle the masses of people like Frankfurt’s airport does, it’s eventually a small one. It recently got voted for being one of the world’s best airports to sleep in! Certainly something Frankfurt can’t compete with.

I’ll try to continue this list at another point. Until then, enjoy the latest additions to my Instagram profile, I just came home from trip to Whistler and took some really nice photos. Take care!

Alta Lake, #Whistler.

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

A Weekend in Seattle

On the first weekend of October three friends and I set for Seattle. Having briefly written about it in the last post, I’m not going add much today — except for some pictures which I finally uploaded to Instagram this week. Thus this post is more of a curating thing, putting the pictures into context. Seattle is definitely worth a visit and has a couple nice places worth checking out, say the Elliot Bay Book Company on 10th Avenue and the surrounding, really cool indie shops (I got a leather sleeve for my computer by Brenthaven, a local bag design company). Yet, I’m sure (and the fierce competition for jobs proves me right) that Vancouver is still the much better place to live.

Four friends in Seattle :)

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

Gorgeous High School building in Seattle.

Gorgeous High School building in Seattle.

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

The Catholic Church in downtown Seattle.

The Catholic Church in downtown Seattle.

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

Interesting architecture in downtown Seattle!

Interesting architecture in downtown Seattle!

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

Waterfront Seattle.

Waterfront Seattle.

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

Sunset over Seattle and its Public Market.

Sunset over Seattle and its Public Market.

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

Tuum Est! Vancouver, In and Around.

Fast forward from the last post on September 10 to today, almost four weeks later. A new spirit has embraced me and I’m back on track for thoroughly enjoying life in this incredible city, named after British captain George Vancouver who explored a good part of the northwestern Pacific Coast of North America (but this just as a side note). Unlike I expected but as my mother accurately predicted (what is it that mothers have a such a good instinct for such things?) it took me around four weeks to really get comfortable with the new environment in all its facets. Strongly connected to that I (re)learned a valuable lesson in relying on intuition, and, foremost, in patience. Strangely, the world is not constituted as all those “feel good” story make us believe, friends and subsequent great memories don’t just fall from the sky like rain drops. Instead it takes time and effort to establish friendships, making great experiences possible. And you know, that’s okay. By adhering to patience and keeping the eyes and ears open, I was able to make peace with myself, enabling me to enjoy just being with myself in the same way as I do like company. I feel lucky that I was able to work on me in that way because it gives me a great deal of personal freedom and independence which I thoroughly enjoy. To a considerable extent life is truly how UBC’s motto “tuum est” suggests — it is up to you. It is up to you what to draw from it, how to make the most from it!

Fall creeps in around Vancouver.

A photo posted by Matt (@matt.meller) on

That being said, let’s delve a little into how I spent the last weeks. The weekend, which just passed, I’ve been to Seattle with friends and hence also the first time to the US in my life. It’s been a great time, though without expanding too much on that right now I think Vancouver (and probably Canada as a whole) is a much better place to be — despite higher taxes and price levels. One thing which really struck me in Seattle was the traffic in actual downtown. They have a highway cutting through downtown (like, for real!), and the city seemed also to be utterly car-centered, in a way which I’ve never experienced it before. That aside, our group of four people had a great time with a renting a nice apartment on airbnb, and, i.e., having dinner in a German kind-of-biergarten restaurant where I had Paulaner Oktoberfest beer and a pretty good Sauerbraten.

As recognisable on the picture above fall starts to creep in here in Vancouver as well. Nonetheless, we still had a lot of amazing days of great weather. With my newly acquired longboard I took the opportunity to do some rides along Vancouver and it’s seawall. It’s been amazingly beautiful and super fun! Unfortunately I think I overstrained my ankle a bit which is why I had to skip a couple of field hockey trainings (I’m participating in the varsity team’s trainings for fun, three times a week) as well as more rides since approximately a week. Nevertheless, I still didn’t stop to continue exploring the city — there are just to many cool little stores to have a look at, not to mention the many spots from which to enjoy the terrific landscape surrounding Vancouver. As of right now, I’m sitting in UBC’s law library looking through the vast window front on the Pacific and the mountains north of Vancouver. I don’t think that there are many universities in the world which can you provide with such a view. In a nutshell, I’m really grateful being able to spend a few months here to enjoy UBC’s, its great facilities (on which I could easily expand on in a single, long paragraph) and Vancouver likewise. And I’m already hoping for coming back later at some point to actually live here, given that I find a liveable place to live which I can properly afford — a considerable constraint since Vancouver’s housing market is highly competitive in increasing prices as much as possible.

So long, get back for the next post and until that check Instagram!

An Officer and a Spy

A great thriller by Robert Harris I recently enjoyed reading, featuring the very rich historical background of the ‘Dreyfus Affair’ in late 19th century France.

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