Dont buy the Sun.

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

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Things to do while trying to write

THe other day, Wikipedia went off line. Naturally, I could not make any progress at all on my Masters/PhD/Thesis thingy. Then I saw this, which is brilliant(BYW, the video is legit), and realised that even if a hurty left arm is considered an excuse, I still dont do enough stuff. (

I therefore decided that I would do some gardening - fresh air (well as fresh as Hull allows), doing something physical, saving myself some money - I would plant some vegetables. I dug out all the seed trays I could find, and a bit of old compost, spaded some good soil out of the beds we have lying dormant and mixed the whole lot up. This was working, I began to feel really fresh, active , happy etc so I poured the soil mix into the seed trays, filling about fifteen of the blighters.

Its not giving anything away, by telling you in advance that by now, my brain, which I have been using a lot recently, had completely washed its hands of all this activity and had slunked off somewhere for a good sleep. No, I should perhaps hasten to mention, I did not cut my foot off with a spade (whichI have never done), nor did I break a rib by smashing the spade handle into my torso (something I did when we were renovating Large Mansions), concuss myself by walking into a wall (twice), get a splinter in my eye (once) or even merely step in cat poo (repeatedly). No what I did while not serious, nevertheless presents a dilemma. I planted all the seed trays with spring (or green or scallion) onion seeds. Which means that in about six months, Large Mansions will be flooded with industrial quantities of a vegetable that doesnt keep, is more of an occasional herb, or salad addition than anything, and six tonnes of which will all come to full maturity at the same time.

Simple, you may say, just get rid of the seedlings when they appear, and plant something else, and this is a sensible suggestion. The trouble is I cannot do this. It feels too much like murder when the little cute seedlings appear to just pluck them out and discard them. So it looks pretty much as if in six months time, our diet will consist of variations on spring onions or we'll have to get a pet that eats them. The next time wikipedia is down, I am taking to my bed.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Its raining cats and blogs

In terms of zeitgeist, a common speculation I hear is "when's it going to happen?" , with "it' being:

a. Civil unrest on a massive scale
b. or, huge stock market crash and we wake up one morning and the ATM's arent working (triggering 'a')

A symptom, perhaps, of this is the proliferation of blogs by traders, anonymous bankers and other market/economist types. There are billions of these things (hence the rather weak pun in the title above) and if you havent stumbled across a few by now then you probably live far too much of a productive life. If you do spend most of your life actually doing stuff, as opposed to surfing the net, just do a quick dip into the life of an inveterate, newly converted couch potato like myself. Simply open Google , click the tab for 'more', click blogs and enter 'market' or 'wall street' etc.

The results of this experiment will be in two 'trajectories' (as us social scientists say when we cant be bothered thinking of the right word (CBBTORW)).

{ Incidentally, other social science words we use when in a state of CBBTORW, are 'towards' ( a personal favourite because I hate its use with a particularly intense hatred. I dont see the value in publishing a academic paper that start with "Towards a theory of ....." because you should have actually gotten to the theory before you write about it. Beside which , most of the time the author usually doesnt mean 'theory' they mean 'model'), 'paradigm' (when you cant think of anything to say, you either suggest a potential new paradigm or critique an existing one), 'heuristic' (just because you inappropriattely apply a posh name to your guess doesnt mean its not still just guessing), ontological (I would place a very large bet that 98% of the people that use this word could'nt explain what it means). The consequence of this misuse of language in academic papers (as opposed to the forgivable misuse, typos and convulted syntax of casual blog writing) is that sometimes I think that the social sciences - horrible word but you hopefully know what I mean - are the study of incredibly fascinating behaviours and interactions, done very badly.

A lot of this can be understood, heuristically, within the paradigm of "physics envy", thus we can move towards an ontological theory of interdisciplinary relativism where reductionist duality is priveliged........................ Erm, Sorry about that, I just got a bit carried away. Anyway a prof I recently met was talking about 'physics envy' in his discipline, and it really struck a chord. In fact, in the social sciences, an incredible amount of time and energy has been expended in the last thirty years in what one paper described as "The Paradigm Wars: Qualitative versus Quantitative". In many commentaries, you could replace the phrase 'essential criticality' for 'a dislike of scientists, possibly based on a failed romance'. Its obvious, I hope, that a critical look at our own and othr discplines is necessary and welcome. But whining on for twenty years about science without proposing anything that would, in practice, look any different, is not critical thinking (and yes I'm talking about you Mr Schon). Fortunately, there are many, many, many great examples work in the social sciences by fantastic people who are secure enough not to 'wish they were taken more seriously like what physicist are' and who are too busy doing their own research to spend too much time worrying about whether the CERN experiments are more valid than their own interviews with anti-social youth. }

Having extended the use of brackets beyond all reasonable doubt, I should perhaps return to the main, which is the flourishing state of blogs about economics, or the markets. As an expert couch potato, having had two periods of enforced layoff in the last year and therefore too much time on my hands, I can confirm that in fact, economics blogs have become more numerous that 'alin abduction' or "Mayan calender' blogs. And i think its because so many people are expecting something disastrous to occur in the economic sphere, but they just dont know what this disastrous something might be. So they turn to blogs for the answer, because newspaper's arent telling. Which is entirely the wrong thing to do. As should be obvious by now, economists know about as much about the future of the economy as Peppa Pig does about phrenology. Economics as prediction is junk science predicated on a bed of fantasy, with a side of unreality and an extra helping of make-believe. Economics, like the social sciences, suffered from physics envy and desperately wanted to be a 'science', when it clearly was not. The real results of that self-delusion, and that intense self-focus on how their discipline was regarded, is directly implicated in the destruction of at least three national economies. That's a pretty high price for a country to pay for academic pretension.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

What I learnt this Christmas........

1. The ability to open a can of "Petit Pate Ocean Fish" cat food with one operable hand by leveraging said can against feet should not be taken as a sign, by the operator, that by simple extension, a full Christmas dinner with turkey and all the trimmings is within the range of possibilities for same.
2. Never use the words "meaning" or "meaningless" within a five kilometre radius of anthropologists or philosophers who are in full possession of their faculties unless "meaning" or "meaningless" are what you actually mean (symbolically).
3. Journalism has failed.
4. "Battle: Los Angeles" is the worst movie ever made. But, there are worse (see Asylum particularly "Battle of Los Angeles").
5. The word "notion" is meaningless.
6. On the other hand, if everything has meaning then "Battle:Los Angeles" cannot be the worst film ever made because it will mean something to someone. In fact, there cannot be a worst film ever made because they will all mean something to someone.
7. A signed Lionel Messi Footy shirt is the second best present ever. The best are clippings from the goal mouth at Anfield. The worst, and therefore the best, is Knitlympics.
8. A Paradox: "Battle: Los Angeles" is measurably crap but existentially meaningful. This is called phenomenology.
9. Never interrupt your wife. Ever.
10. Cats are not performing seals and never live up to their owners boasts of cuteness/ability to do tricks/capacity to amuse/playfulness.
11. Points 5., and 6. are illustative of why some degrees are dangerous .
12. The 'science ' of applied economics can be likened as a voyage undertaken by unrelated and slightly obnoxious cats in a Warp-drive trans-light speed space-ship to discover a new planet in an as yet unobserved galaxy, where the cats not only dont understand how the space ship works, but are also unfamiliar with the concepts of 'planet', 'galaxy', 'space', 'ship' or "beam me up, Scotty'. It can thus be simply, but accurately, described as "a disaster in the making" without the compensation (for observers or humans who have accidentally gone along for the ride) of a good fireworks show at the end. The reasons for any decisions tha cats do make however, while describable, are very difficult to understand.

Thanks to everyone who came over the holiday period - Joe, Anna, Sal, Sue, Chris, Margaret, Bill, Ethan, Will.