Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Part the Second band Concluding: Drinkshedcatfingerknee

So singly and plurallistically, my guests left, shortly after CHRISTMAS, heading for their own futures. Although, according to one discussion recently had, that future consists of not existing until the next time we meet. It has taken me three years to begin to understand the the ontology of social constructionism, and a part of me wonders why I bothered. Social construction is, like the measurement of length or empirical evidence in support of something, a very useful tool, - a way of explaining some phenomena, not the "it" of the phenomena, aggregated parts of something, not the essential elements - molecules when I expected quarks, and I"m disappointed. I explain this to JJ, and that I'm thinking of blogging about it. He thinks I should write something funny instead.

We have wanted a shed for ages and a post-Christmas trip to the local DIY centre reveals a bargain- the store's sole remaining example of "The Forester" that normally retails at 127.00 is about to be thrown into the store's dumpster. This is because the Forester in question was damaged in transit. Actually, to the untrained eye, it looks as if it has been involved in an earthquake. Major elements of it are broken; the plywood sheet that makes up the roof, the window pane, the roofing felt, some of the planks that clad it and the door. And, although it is flat-packed, to get it home in the only available neighbour's vehicle, I will have to saw in half the four panels that make up the sides, so that by the time it reaches Large Mansions, no part will be left undamaged. I am convinced, and offer 50 pounds for the thing, and without the cash passing through the till, the Forester is mine. Its a tad smallish, but I can still envisage, the Forester complete,which of course includes a small stove, a ratten chair and a hidden supply of whiskey.

Its still subzero in Hull, but the sun is shining, so I spring into action, erecting my shed. It is a bit harder than I thought it would be to get all the broken bits of wood to fit back together, and I realise this is a small scale demonstration of why houses are not rebuilt after natural disasters but quite quickly, I discover that if I dont over- obsess about details of architecture such as square-ness, uniform height, rectangular shape, straightness and so on, then I can create a four-sided object with a bi-planar roof that may, one day, house a small wood burner. Towards three pm, its getting dark and cold again, so I rush a little, furiously ducttaping together pre-torn pieces of roofing felt in an effort to get the Forester slightly more water resistant. In the growing gloom, I hammer home a nail in an effort to secure a final non-continuous strip of roofing felt. The strike of the hammer head on nail sounds less ferrous, metallic and zingy than normal. In fact, it sounds quite squashy, muffled, squamous. Realisation dawns and I glance at my little finger, called the pinkie in some quarters. I have squashed pinkie quite effectively and split the end of the finger in half.

Previous experience tells me that I've probably broken the bone at the the end of the finger, although previous experience also informs me that these bones are intriguingly hard to break. But (and this is in case anyone needs any advice on the subject and is wondering whether the accident they have just had has resulted in a break, a bruise, or soft tissue damage)breaks to bone are deceptive little critters, and usually the least painful(unless its a big break) than the other injuries, measured over time. Deep soft tissue damage is the worst, it ebbs constantly from the inside out, occasionally spiking and leaving you feeling very nauseous, and it makes you distrust whatever limb or joint(usually) you've hurt. Bruising is terrible, but its surface, like someone has tightened your whole skin, and is well masked by alcohol. Breaks are sneaky, they dont hurt much after the initial pain, but then itch like hell. THey tend only to hurt if you do something bad, like move the wrong way, and as long as you avoid that movement, they're ok.

All of which, I suppose, nicely leads in to the recent knee operation, which has been a kind of self-inflicted, but welcome sort of tissue damage accompanied by bruising. THose familiar with this blog will know that the op has been necessitated by the near murderous driving of someone three years ago, and that obtaining this fix - an arthroscopy - has been somewhat of a struggle. Currently, I am assured that the operation was a great success, with repairs to the medial and anterior cartilage/ligament thingy and a small army of bone fragment removed. It will however take about six weeks before full mobility is restored, which is probably a good thing as I have an essay on social constructionism to write and will need all of that time to describe something I think of as nothing more than a measurement.

Fortuntely, I have my cat to help me. Toshack is under strict veternirarian instructions to loose wait and a miniscule reduction in his diet has meant that he has totally reverted (again) to being a kitten. Consequentl, he follows me round, moping and looking hopeful, obviously petitioning for a treat. When looking like a little kitten that has lost it's mitten and been orphaned on the same day, in the rain, failed to garner him more food, he decided to get really clingy. So one day, working quietly in my office, 20 lbs of jumbo sized kitten crawled onto my lap and started purring. In truth, he's too big to actually fit, and is a challenge to circulation of the upper thigh, but its is now where he spends his time when I'm writing in my office. I had the camera handy, so decided to take a few shots, which are, I recognize, either cute or disturbing from a few perspectives:

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

ANother lAzy post

Lazy post but this , if true is ace.....

I think our Russian expert should inform if this is hoax or not???

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Part the First: Drinkshedcatfingerknee

I am ecstatic, happier than I have been since 25 May 2005 : "Lets go dancing!" I say to RHB. She looks at me. It is not a look, it is The Look. Its two hours since I got back from hospital and her patience for the roles I have allocated - jokey patient flirting with sexy, but deeply sympathetic nurse - evaporated about one hour forty seven minutes ago.

I recently observed that every good story should have a beginning, middle and an end, just not necessarily in that order. Aside from the brilliant originality of the phrase, it is also true of this post. The initial paragraph fits right at the end. The last few weeks, as the title implies, have been enough of a corruscating blur anyway, so I will return to the start-ish, and use visual aides to relive boredom. I will not however, as one of my lecturers did, attempt without irony to represent the modularity of the brain using images derived from phrenology.

It starts with drink. Persons, including Joey Mac, Suzie-Woosie, Ethers and the Artist Still Known as Christine, Great Margaret and the Legal Eagle attended Large Mansions from 27th December until about 2nd Jan to celebrate New Year. The first to arrive were Sally Stone, a spinster of the parish of Mansfield who came as an associate of Will AKA Braingrass, the dangerous revolutionary. As usual, anything to do with Sally and Will became complicated as soon as quantum reality realized that those individuals were contemplating doing anything practical. The theory that RHB and I share in relation to Will and Sally is that his philosophical thinkings on reality has so annoyed it at some point in the past that it now goes to great lengths to prove its impossibility by making simple plans become unbelievably complicated whenever the opportunity presents.

Hence a simple plan, involving about an hour of time, to pick them up from Doncaster in the rental car we hired for the period became a four hour interactive experience because en-route from Hull, the washer fluid in the car became exhausted. I pulled into a garage just off the highway and popped the trunk to access the spare washer fluid that RHB and I had wisely purchased, given conditions of snow and ice and filthy gritty sludge reducing visibility. To my surprise, it was not there, and, I found out later, had been moved by RHB from where it might be usefully used (in the car)to where it might be neatly stored (in the house). I cheerfully purchased another 5 litres at a seasonally inflated price of EIGHT pounds (equivalent to about sixteen dollars!) and headed back the car.

It soon became obvious that it was entirely unobvious how the hood (and therefore the washer reservoir) was accessed. I searched for twenty minutes, becoming more un-ontime as time passed and utterly failed. I asked customers and staff at the garage, but no-one was familiar with the car and groups of men gathered round, helpfully discussing, in time honoured fashion, how utterly stupid the design of the car I had rented was. In ManSpeak this actually translates as a commentary on (my) virility, probable state of worklessness and general lack of judgement under a paradigm that hypothesises overall inadequacy of persons who do not own cars. The discussion also provided a few men, who perhaps should have had "SMUG BASTARD" tattoed on their foreheads, how the two inches of snow on the ground utterly vindicated their purchase of an SUV.

Eventually, I took a decision to proceed, so I bought three bottles of water (seasonally inflated due to transport difficulties) and set off. At intervals, I pulled over and used the water to clean the screen. Eventually, I arrived in Doncaster. Another search ensued, this time comprising Sal's friends and accompanied by a Google search, which was hindered by Will's complete lack of familiarity with motor vehicles. Five of the finest brains in Doncaster failed to solve the puzzle. Fortunately, a deep, moist fog was beginning to descend, which imparted enough moisture to the screen to allow the wipers to be effective. We set off back to Hull. Partially as a reward for their patience, I decided to treat Will and Sal to a scenic diversion across the second biggest suspension bridge in the world, which was, of course, entirely shrouded in fog.

Eventually, we did arrive back in Hull much to the cats utter delight. The cats, it should be mentioned, were so delighted with the presence of visitors that they spent long periods gazing out of windows, apparently with the intention of reflecting on how happy they were to share their favourite sleeping places

Guests arrived thick and fast. Joey Mac turned up at Hull's Paragon Rail Station after a heroic eight hour train journey looking sharp, fresh and almost Scottish. Joe's partner, Anna,was in Russia and was missed, so we commemorated her absence by drunkenly arguing about a topic she knows infinitely more about than we did. This made us miss her more, so we changed the topic of argument in an effort to make Sal faint through anger. Joe and I toasted Tom, and I did reflect that given that everyone present could be regarded as eccentric in one way or another, he would have fitted in perfectly.

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Chris, Sue and Ethan came and we ate and talked, drank and argued, laughed and drank and cooked and cooked and cooked. We discussed global economics and RHB's new political enthusiasm, music through Sal's brilliant Japanese speed punk, football with Ethan and art with Christine. We went to bed later and later. Walks were taken, visits were made. Movies were watched, mostly bad, to cater to mine and Ethan's terrible taste(Prince of Persia). The house has a habit of forming a happy bubble round people that gather in it, so that when we heard JJ's party - the ostensible highlight of the visit - had been cancelled due to illness, I was almost relieved, because while JJ's parties are great I didnt want to leave the bubble.

However, this neighbourhood, not just this house, is also great so when a neighbour offered us a place at their party, the gang decamped four houses along for a few hours. In truth, it was not the best party in the world, but the chorus of Auld Lang Syne initiated by someone was the best I have heard for years - not the nervous limp hand-joining of people who are stranger and happy to remain so, but the enthusiastic bawling of a neighbourhood where people genuinely like eachother.

After it was all over, and even Nel had gone back to work, I sat in the highest room at the back of the house. It was ridiculously quiet for a while, then a plaintive miaowing started, interspersed with a pathetic series of "Meeps". It was urgent, and insistent and distracting from my work, so I followed the noise and found the cats. Their behaviour was very strange. Tosh, his actions copied by Meepy(calli), was wandering round the rooms where people had slept, pacing the perimeter of each room miaowing very loudly, then running into the next room and doing the same. Meepy was trying to copy him ,but because she is terrible at miaowing just started running round excitedly, jumping on and off beds. Realising I felt the same, I got one more drink, the last of the whisky and went round the house and toasted everyone who had visited this year. Thanks, cheers and Slante to you all.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Watch this

A very lazy post but this is interesting..............!

Am very busy writing a report (due Monday), preparing for an operation (Tuesday) and Exam (Friday) and writing a post grad application research proposal (as soon as )

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Peter Principle

I'm sorry to drone on about this, I really am, but RHB has banned me from complaining so here goes. I just read this:

Cowan suggests that learners are reflecting in an educational sense “when they analyse or evaluate one or more personal experiences, and attempt to generalise from that thinking” (1999: 18). However, as Biggs points out, “a reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original” (1999: 6).

In truth, I read this several hours ago, but my head exploded and I've only just finished putting it back together again.

In a recent seminar on reflection, I was asked to describe a situation where my emotions impacted on my learning. I was able to raise my hand immediately.

"Yes? " said the 'thought leader' (and those words themselves are worthy of another whole issue)

"Well" I said " At this very moment, I am very angry, and that is 'impacting' my learning"

"Why are you angry?" said the TL in a surprised tone.

I'm afraid I was somewhat impolite and said something about unsupported, banalities masquerading as academic work.

And the sentence above about reflection not being a reflection but being some sort of future divination is the reason why I get so mad about this stuff. I might have mentioned in an earlier post that any paper including the word "Towards..." should be banned because of incompleteness. I should perhaps, at this point, draw the attention to those not working in the BA areas, that BA literature abounds with 'Towards....'. I should also point out, as may be equally unobvious, that I am, a huge fan of academia. To me, academics are the new Sex Gods. I often contemplate a teenage and early adult hood spent driving round the toilets of the UK's gigging scene and think to myself (NOT reflect because I dont then go and write a friggin journal about this..) "What the Hell where you thinkin?", because its way sexier being brainy than, I suppose. Because that - sexy - is what I thought it was. Contemporaneously, I realise that getting booed off stage and chased from Leeds by a convoy of MAD MAX lookalike skinheads just because our singer said they all looked "F***kin stupid" was not very sexy, just frightening, and what would have been well sexy would have been to invent the internet. Or work at CERN or invent wind turbines r something.

I pause, realising that I have diverted slightly form the original purpose of this post, which was to thank our New Year Visitors, toast absent friends and wish all well for the forthcoming year. It is somewhat late, so rather than a sophisticated literary device, I shall simply lurch back to the point at hand. Which is that "Towards ...." is bad, and rampant in my field(s). I should, despite the fact that there's no news in good people, salute a few of the brilliant writers in Humanities I have read - MacKeracher (Adult learning) Naiman (L2 learning), Ortner, Gupta and Mascia-Lees in feminist anthropology, Smith in history, just in case it seems that I moan all the time. In truth, the stuff I dont enjoy is a smallish percent of wpapers read. But its still annoying..................

Barry, D. and M. Elmes (1997). "Strategy Retold: Toward a Narrative View of Strategic Discourse." The Academy of Management Review 22(2): 429-452.
Using narrative theory, this article explores strategic management as a form of fiction. After introducing several key narrative concepts, we discuss the challenges strategists have faced in making strategic discourse both credible and novel and consider how strategic narratives may change within the "virtual" organization of the future. We also provide a number of narrativist-oriented research questions and methodological suggestions.

What is interesting about this is that RHB and I were, sometime around Christmas, discussing managers, and particularly, what lousy managers most academics seemed to be. I expanded on this:

"Actually, my sweet" I told her in my customary address " Its not just academics who make lousy managers. I think we can expand the category somewhat..."

"Pray tell, my dove" she sprake "Whatsoever do you mean? And pass the chocolates. NOW!"

There followed a moment of extreme violence, but having secured the dark chocolate truffle, RHB settled down to listen as I returned from casualty and my theme

"The truth is, my favourite little chocolate addicted psychopath, that the category can be expanded to include..." I paused dramatically ".....all humans. Simply put, we're crap at managing things. However, this is not our fault. It is, in fact, the fault of the construct of "management". In truth, most things, people, jobs and enterprises dont need managers, and are better off without them"

RHB looked at me adoringly, so I handed over the last box of Green's Organic Chocolate, and her adoring gaze ruthlessly followed the trajectory of the box. Seeing as she was otherwise occupied, I carried on, this time addressing the cat:

"It's true! Management is a myth. The occasional small group needs leadership - like a football team, for example, but on the whole, management is a redundant artificial construct who's only use is as an illustration of how societies invent overly complex solutions to their problems, thereby sowing the seeds of their own demise. And I can prove it..."

With that, I flourished an abstract that is co-incidentally based on a Canadian originated concept - The Peter Principle - as follows:

The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study

Authors: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, Cesare Garofalo

In the late sixties the Canadian psychologist Laurence J. Peter advanced an apparently paradoxical principle, named since then after him, which can be summarized as follows: {\it 'Every new member in a hierarchical organization climbs the hierarchy until he/she reaches his/her level of maximum incompetence'}. Despite its apparent unreasonableness, such a principle would realistically act in any organization where the mechanism of promotion rewards the best members and where the mechanism at their new level in the hierarchical structure does not depend on the competence they had at the previous level, usually because the tasks of the levels are very different to each other. Here we show, by means of agent based simulations, that if the latter two features actually hold in a given model of an organization with a hierarchical structure, then not only is the Peter principle unavoidable, but also it yields in turn a significant reduction of the global efficiency of the organization. Within a game theory-like approach, we explore different promotion strategies and we find, counterintuitively, that in order to avoid such an effect the best ways for improving the efficiency of a given organization are either to promote each time an agent at random or to promote randomly the best and the worst members in terms of competence.

And there's plenty of supporting evidence:

Haslam, S. A, C. McGarty, R. A. Eggins, B. E. Morrison, & K. J. Reynolds, “Inspecting the Emperor’s Clothes: Evidence that Randomly Selected Leaders can Enhance Group Performance”, Group Dynamics: Theory, Process and Research 2 (1998): 168-18

If you follow these links, and chase up a bit of evidence of your own, what becomes obvious is that (and this is beyond the conclusions reached by the authors quoted above) not only does it not matter who is 'in charge' once a certain level of remove from functional operations is obtained, in point of fact, it does not matter what, if anything, is in charge. In point of fact, most CEO's could be replaced by a plantpot and no-one would notice.

"How", I hear you ask, "How the blinking heck does all, or any of this, relate to reflection and 'towards'? ". Well, in many ways it doesnt, I have meandered considerably. On the other hand, an academic work involving "Towards..." changes nothing. It is a Schroedinger's cat piece of thinking, neither alive or dead. Like managers, it does not matter a jot whether it exists or not. Reflection is similar - it changes nothing but the self-regard of an individual in very specific, non-repeatable circumstances. It is neither looking in a mirror, nor future casting, it is simply rumination, like what cows do - an evolutionary, cognitive, emotionally vacuous dead end. And with that, I promise, I will never mention it again.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Shorter days

With a rousing chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" still ringing, I troop upstairs to my office, once more to plunge into a series of now impossible deadlines. The final year of the degree is stratospherically more difficult than the previous two for a number of reasons, and has been, and will continue to be a struggle against deadlines and poor planning. For once, most of the poor planning though, is not, in my humble opinion, mine, but rather a disjointed and uneven series of final year modules. Oak table syndrome still afflicts me, and I had expected the final year to be a coagulation, a synthesis, a concentration and a summation of all that has gone before, but instead I am finding myself awash in new unexplored and unrelated modules that test patience not intellect. An example is my Work Experience Module. Firstly, it is surprising to have a Work experience Module on a degree that is not vocational. Secondly, I hardly need more work experience as an exercise, although the paid sort would not be unwelcome. And finally, the module is, in a word that has become my second least favourite in the English language, 'underpinned' by 'theories' of reflection and situated learning.

This all causes me a few difficulties. Firstly, underpinning is something that is done to houses under adverse soil conditions, and I cannot avoid, cognitively, making the connection, so that whenever I consider this particular module, I picture it as a dangerously unstable edifice, lurching slightly to the left and under imminent possibility of collapse. Secondly, much of the academic work published related to reflection includes within its title the other hateful word "Towards...". My own personal opinion is that academic work that includes the title "Towards..." should be referred back to the author on grounds of incompleteness. I am fairly sure that Einstein would not have published a paper called "Towards a Theory of General Relativity - some incomplete equations" and equally would not have included in that paper the mathematical expression e=m multiplied by something I havent worked out yet. And Andrew Wiles would not have started his famous proof of Fermat's Last Theorem with "Actually, chaps, I havent quite worked out all the details yet, but if you guys can just use your imagination in the bits where I've left big blanks, I'm sure I'll get round to it sooner or later..." .

Unfortunately, no matter how much discomfort I have with some modules, they must be completed, if only because I think my chances for rising in the League Tables of Academics from joint-second to first would be greatly enhanced by achieving at least a 2:1 in an undergraduate degree. So its back to work and back to normal.

Whatever that is.