Cameron's sticking his head in the multicultural nest again and wiggling it about. Don't want to get into the wrongs and rights here, but something I've always found curious: ministers never seem to worry about the impact of people like me - students. Whether or not the just-left-home variety is better or worse than more mature chaps such as myself, we still go in and out of places en mass. Student numbers have gone from just below 350,000 a year in 1999 to near half a million now. Say we're talking about a through-put of four million students in the last decade: what impact has that had in the areas they have gone to? They pour a great deal of money in, of course, but one might argue students have also contributed to the fragmentation of existing communities and of locking out through housing price-hikes. Putnam is still my go-to guy for thinking about how the fabric of communities works: one of the foundations of social capital is staying put. In my old stomping ground, Sheffield, many students do indeed stay on. But then, what's the economic impact of that? A young, well-trained workforce competing for jobs with the locals.
This is all idle wiffle without actual research to back it up. For instance, I don't know what background inter-region migration levels are. If I'd spent more of my time doing proper geography, perhaps I would... Still, don't let that ever stop wild speculation, I say: the impact must be pretty large, given the collosal size of the population shifts. "In most respects, the sociological impacts of student versus from-outside-the-UK immigration are going to look the same." Discuss. Of course, the reason students aren't one of Cameron's punching bags - er, well, aren't more of a punching bag - would be the votes, wouldn't it?
Friedrich Hayek, Zombie - Krugman
Truly, nothing ever changes. The insistence that big deficits somehow caused the crisis even thought they actually didn’t appear until after the crisis was well underway — and were clearly caused by the crisis, not the other way around — prefigures the debate in Europe, in which everyone declares that fiscal irresponsibility is the core issue even though both Ireland and Spain had low debt and budget surpluses on the eve of crisis.
... is as sure an indication as you could want that something is wrong somewhere."
Rob Hopkins talking about Gasland, a documentary looking at gas fracking in the US. Watch the trailer linked there. Presuming it's not a set up in the film, Rob's managed quite an understatement there. Being able to ignite your tap water means something really, really seriously needs to change!
This is awesome. Reminds me again: the distinction between households and firms can hide the fact that households are economic units. Same goes for the gradual shift of food processing from household/community/family networks to the marketplace (pretty much entirely a female job in both cases) as the value of time use has shifted. We tend to think of food processing in relation to 'processed food', but that's only a tiny element of it. Any firm that does something as simple as cleaning vegetables is doing a resource-heavy job, as anyone de-mudding garden produce knows.
Breaking down the whole thing into time input, everyone still does a little food processing at home - except when they outsource the whole thing and go to restaurants. Also reminds me: been interesting watching that in action as friends have moved from entirely shared cooking at festivals toward buying from stalls. That's outsourcing processing as money has become proportionally less valuable compared to time. Though festival breakfasts are still a self-organising wonder to behold. As far as I remember anyway - perhaps after the PhD when I'm allowed out of the house again...
Two monkey stories. First up, Feynman on 'the feeling of confusion':
The confusion's that we're all apes that are kinda stupid, trying to figure out how to put two sticks together to reach the banana, and we can't quite make it.
I like these stories (like the importance of stupidity in scientific research) because I can cherry-pick the answer I want out of "reason for struggle: 1) am stupid 2) am just human." A happier interpretation is that, regardless of whether you're Richard Feynman or Daffy Duck, you're always going to be a monkey with two sticks trying to reach a banana. Except for Daffy, now I think of it. Bad example. (If I can't tell ducks from monkeys I really am in trouble...)
Second-up, the possibly apocryphal monkey trap: a banana/some peanuts/thing that monkeys find tasty in a jar. Monkey puts hand in, but can't remove fist holding tasty item. Apparently filmed by National Geographic at some point, but who knows if it was set up? Used now as a general purpose allegory for learning to let go of, you know, stuff you need to let go of. But it's been playing on my mind a little recently. In my version, mr. monkey can see the thing through the jar, but that doesn't help: he's hardwired and he can't let go. I can't help but wonder if we're not collectively exactly like that. We can reason whatever way we like about the world and how we should act, but we're hardwired in such a way that we can't let go of the things that'll get us in the end. We can see it clearly, as it happens, but there's absolutely nothing we can do. Cheery thought. Ook!
Hot on the heels of XKCD, here's my productivity tip of day in picture form. I was doing this daily but got out of the habit. Tried it again today: the difference is frightening. I mean look: I've plugged it back in and now I'm blogging nonsense again.
... or as the U.S. military calls it, degrading the enemy narrative. It's particularly amusing that, by using sock puppet systems where one person can pretend to be many (with very thorough work done to make sure that's undetectable), they aim to "follow the admonition we practiced in Iraq, that of trying to be 'first with the truth'." One's truthiness is a little compromised if you lie about who you are. (Guardian story. )
Persona management software is catching on more generally, and the idea of pretending to be someone you're not isn't new (recent example). I wonder, though, whether there's a tendency for square-eyes like myself who spend too much time on blogs to overplay the importance of online comments for actual opinion forming. The implicit idea behind one person managing many personas seems to be that heavy information assault can work just like any other artillery. To an extent, that must be the case, but I hold out a perhaps forlorn hope that in some things, reasonable people can shortcut hegemonic assault with, you know, reason and shizzle.
Manning is allowed visits only on Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the week he is kept in his cell 23 hours a day, fed a daily diet of antidepressant pills, forbidden to exercise in his cell, and forcibly woken if he attempts to sleep in the daytime. He is continually subject to what is called "maximum custody", and also to a so-called "prevention of injury" order, which among other things, deprives him of his clothes at night and also of normal sheets and bedding in favour of a blanket he describes as being like the lead apron used when operating x-ray machines. He is allowed no personal possessions.
A friend of Manning in the Guardian. How is this going to do anything but slowly destroy his mind? Presumably they know that. The only aim can be to 'send a signal': this is what happens if you cross us. I'm reminded of Jon Ronson's 'the men who stare at goats': I came away from that thinking the U.S. is just a serial abuser who's become hugely adept at battering people without leaving any bruises. Obama's silence and the sacking (sorry, resignation) of Philip Crowley are not comforting.
Manning has until October until he's under civilian law.
Brian Cox, right at the end, looking for all the world like the idea's just occurred to him:
We are the cosmos made conscious. Life is the means by which the universe understands itself.
The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we've learned most of what we know. Recently, we've waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Ending there with probably his most famous quote. Here he is saying it in vocoder form. Just cos you're a professor on telly doesn't mean you're allowed to plagiarise.
(p.s. "amm" is what we used to say as kids where I grew up if we saw someone else doing something we deemed naughty. Kids do that a lot but the word seems to vary from place to place.)
Truth has long since been co-opted as a weapon of war.
That's Peter Kosminsky, talking about his recent drama, the promise. That might seem just a restatement of the weary cliche about truth being a casualty, but it's not. Truth as a weapon makes it something altogether less passive: not a victim, but something living, breathing and potentially lethal. A thing one needs to learn to understand to gain any chance of protection from it.