Saturday, June 01, 2013

Saturday Morning Musings - chips with sweet and sour, smoking and mental health, cats & maybe some nostalgia

ASIO hub plans stolen in cyber-attack

This morning's musings are just a round-up, a muster of various matters. To begin with something that really made me laugh. 

Here in Australia, the story of the possible Chinese hacking of the plans of the new ASIO building in Canberra has been in the news. This graphic represents the take on the matter by skepticslawyers' DeusExMacintosh.

Now I'm not sure about DExM's Australian connection, I think that she is British, but she sure captured the Australian view in this graphic. The thing that really made me laugh was the inserted comment bottom left.

By the way, assuming that my Latin hasn't completely escaped me, DeusExMacintosh means something like God out of the Macintosh. We don't use the word Macintosh much in Australia, raincoat is more common, but the name still makes me smile.

Complaints about spying also make me smile. All countries do it. The problem arises only when you get caught!

A perceptive friend wondered in an email to me, "I am getting impression that this (writing on Personal Reflections) is not that much fun lately?" That's partially true. I have been feeling a bit jaded. I write thousands of words a week across a number of platforms. I just get tired.

Then I look at what I get back.chart

This chart shows page views as measure by Google on this blog. That looks very good, although my other stats packages don't show quite as pronounced upward trend.But what counts is not just raw traffic.

On Wednesday, I wrote The inhumanity of modern social policy. This addressed the question of the impact of bans in smoking in public hospitals. That led to a comment from a mental health nurse that I have now bought up in a postscript in the main post.

By the way, I don't just feature comments that I agree with. I feature comments that will add to discussion or, at least, make me laugh! The nurse's comment is a very real and serious one, Anybody can comment on this blog, it's public space. The comments I get may sometimes be uncomfortable, but they are very important in the dialogue that is the real strength of the blogosphere.

If you comment and make good points, I will try feature them in postscripts or later responses. In some ways I am coming to think of this blog as my commenter's' blog. It is a platform for discussion and dialogue.

Enough lecturing!

In response to feedback on my post Cat Avenger at writing desk, I added a photo of Tiger, Avenger's mum. She does just the same to Clare as Avenger does to me! I also added a comment from kvd that really made me laugh:

"ps most cats have mental problems, induced by their sublime belief in their innate superiority over humans, balanced against their inability to open cans of cat food."

Those who have cats will join me in laughter.

Back in early May a very short post, The World is awash with money, provided a brief introduction to my concern about what is called QE or quantitative easing. In that post I said:

The thing that is making me increasingly uneasy is the feeling that the pre-conditions are being set for an economic crash. What makes perfect sense for one country, becomes a mess when multiple countries do it. What I'm trying to work out in my mind is a scenario that would allow multiple quantitative easing to be unwound without tipping the wheelbarrow  over and us all onto the ground.

In the weeks since, this has continued to emerge as an issue and I still don't have an answer. I have also been interested in the varying responses by economists. In a funny way, economics has become a little like sociology once was, a battle ground of varying ideological positions. This is not always a bad thing, for it leads to different questions being asked. But it doesn't help me much in understanding practical realities, and that was something economics was once meant to do. Of course economists got it wrong, but the discipline did provide a structured way of asking questions. I wonder if that's still true?

When I was an undergraduate at the University of New England, the philosophy of history was a compulsory unit in the honours year, as was the history of economic thought in economics. The aim was to give students a solid grounding in the history and assumptions of their discipline. That provided bedrock because you could see how things changed over time, how assumptions and context affected thinking.

John Pullen's article on the history of the teaching of economic thought at UNE will provide you with a little of the story of what happened there, of the decline in HET. In history, the philosophy of history course was replaced by one on history methodology, a very different concept.

I accept that it is no longer possible for students to get the type of broad education that I did. I don't think that this is just nostalgia, although that's no doubt part. I also think it's an objective reality. We have formed the view that we can no longer afford it, nor is it appropriate when the purpose of higher education is so narrowly vocational.  How can you justify courses that have no practical impact in a crowded course list?

But when I look at some of the current economic, policy or management debates, I do wonder about the long term costs.  I actually use the knowledge and skills I gained in my undergraduate degree and in all the student activities that surrounded that degree all the time. I wonder if that is still true for more recent students?


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

Regarding DEM's name, I believe it is a 'pretty corruption' from this -

- and her use of an early edition Apple Mackintosh computer as her icon. Whatevs...

I think of her (I've read, Aussie by birth, most definitely Aussie by attitude) as 'God in a raincoat' - but only because it tickles my own sense of the absurd, as she so often does.

Further, you were amused by the 'chips with sweet and sour' whereas I really liked the 'Why, Huwai'. Each to his own I guess; plus I've always intensely disliked sweet & sour dishes.


ps speaking of raincoats - what's happened to your garden, and my chair?

Anonymous said...

Deus ex MacIntosh may be a play on Deus ex machina – god from the machine – a way to solve problems of plots by an unexpected intervention coming from above. MacIntosh may be a computer, god of current times.

Anonymous said...


Since you've made mention of providing a 'space' for dialog within your base of commentors, I'd like to make mention of an article in today's SMH:

- which perked my interest, firstly because I mis-read it as "legs", but then mainly by the use of the term "social egg freezing" which I had not seen before.

So I Googled it (as one does) thinking perhaps that I might be able to provide a link as an addendum to one of your many affectionate CWA cake baking posts (which I thoroughly enjoy btw) but I now find this has to do with deferred human reproduction.

Now, being somewhat human, I thought this deserved a wider consideration - not least because without consistent, reliable, economic egg-to-human production, there would be no CWA cakes - which remains my primary interest, as you will by now appreciate.

So, following links, I came upon a notice of the "1st International Symposium of Social Egg Freezing" (Google it yerself: a one day? Barcelona, Spain? conference to cover "an open and dynamic discussion on the ethical, demographic, social, medical and psychological implications of elective oocyte freezing in our society")

That seems a rather broad range of topics to be covered in one day, even for a CWA conference - don't you think? (Can't find the review of papers presented, even though the conference was February last; never mind) But it gives me the perfect excuse to invite you to my Hawaiian half day seminar on the possible efficacy of barcoded sperm storage, with free golf cart use. Cash, cheques, but not Bitcoin, welcome in advance for discount bookings.


and also many apologies to those Apple Mac users amongst your readers for my mis-spelling. And thanks to Anon.

Anonymous said...

To be clear about "barcoding": this is not individually (because they're slippery little b*ggers) and also, for the children readers, only after emission. (Which does not mean the bit on Channel 9 where there are ads)

Sorry, hope that's now clear.


Jim Belshaw said...

How interesting. I forgot the computer. Still, I like Macintosh the raincoat better.

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, my garden is in disarray and you chair sits sad and lonely in the rain! I promise to do better!

Jim Belshaw said...

Now, kvd, establishing a link between egg freezing and the CWA is a stretch, but I see your point about the need to maintain a supply of cakes. Actually, CWA conferences do cover a very wide range of issues.