Humour

“I have wasted a lot of time living”

John Gray on Michael Oakeshott

He would have found the industrial-style intellectual labour that has entrenched itself in much of academic life over the past twenty-odd years impossible to take seriously. He wrote for himself and anyone else who might be interested; it is unlikely that anyone working in a university today could find the freedom or leisure that are needed to produce a volume such as this. Writing in 1967, Oakeshott laments, ‘I have wasted a lot of time living.’ Perhaps so, but as this absorbing selection demonstrates, he still managed to fit in a great deal of thinking.

Direct URL for this post.

Smombies everywhere

My youngest daughter lived in South Korea for a while and I visited on a couple of occasions. It was a lot of fun in all sorts of ways. The following rings(!) true

The government initially tried to fight the “smombie” (a portmanteau of “smartphone” and “zombie”) epidemic by distributing hundreds of stickers around cities imploring people to “be safe” and look up. This seems to have had little effect even though, in Seoul at least, it recently replaced the stickers with sturdier plastic boards.

Instead of appealing to people’s good sense, the authorities have therefore resorted to trying to save them from being run over. Early last year, they began to trial floor-level traffic lights in smombie hotspots in central Seoul. Since then, the experiment has been extended around and beyond the capital. For the moment, the government is retaining old-fashioned eye-level pedestrian lights as well. But in future, the way to look at a South Korean crossroads may be down.

A dangerous creature is haunting South Korean crossroads – Smombie apocalypse

Direct URL for this post.

Living in Scot itchland

Genital scabies was, to the English, “Scotch itch,” and Scotland was “Itch-land.” The pox was the Spanish or Neapolitan Disease to the French; the French Disease to the Spanish, English, and Germans; the Polish Disease to the Russians; the Portuguese Disease to the Japanese. Captain Cook was chagrined to learn that it was called the British Disease in Tahiti as, in so many words, it was in Ireland: in Ulysses the Citizen, a rabid Irish nationalist, mocks Leopold Bloom’s reference to British civilization: “Their syphilisation you mean.”

Vile Bodies | by Fintan O’Toole | The New York Review of Books

Direct URL for this post.

Wigged out!

“There is no urgent need to go discarding something which has been out of date for at least a century.”

The Economist | Wigged out

This quote refers to the wigs judges in the UK wear. But it seems apposite for much of the way we think about medical education.

Direct URL for this post.

The digital skin web

On some Swedish trains, passengers carry their e-tickets in their hands—literally. About 3,000 Swedes have opted to insert grain-of-rice-sized microchips beneath the skin between their thumbs and index fingers. The chips, which cost around $150, can hold personal details, credit-card numbers and medical records. They rely on Radio Frequency ID (RFID), a technology already used in payment cards, tickets and passports.

Why Swedes are inserting microchips into their bodies – Bjorn Cyborg

One of these is going to end up being sectioned as some time….waiting for the first case-report. Not often I can get two puns in a three word title.

Direct URL for this post.

On  ratio scales and the spirits of invention

It is said that much of the foundations of 20th century physics was done in coffee houses (or in the case of Richard Feynman in strip bars), but things were once done differently in the UK

With neither institutional nor government masters to answer to, the British cyberneticians were free to concentrate on what interested them. In 1949, in an attempt to develop a broader intellectual base, many of them formed an informal dining society called the Ratio Club. Pickering documents that the money spent on alcohol at the first meeting dwarfed that spent on food by nearly six to one — another indication of the cultural differences between the UK and US cyberneticians.

The work of the British pioneers was forgotten until the late 1980s when it was rediscovered by a new generation of researchers… A company that I cofounded has now sold more than five million domestic floor-cleaning robots, whose workings were inspired by Walter’s tortoises. It is a good example of how unsupported research, carried out by unconventional characters in spite of their institutions, can have a huge impact.

A review from 2010 by Rodney Brooks of MIT of “The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future” in Nature (For more on Donald Michie and “in spite of their institutions” see here).

Direct URL for this post.

Chadgrind lives on

I have had of all people a historian tell me that science is a collection of facts, and his voice had not even the ironic rasp of one filing-cabinet reproving another.

Jacob Bronowski | Science and Human Values

Direct URL for this post.

Precision medicine and a den of robbers

I have removed the name of the institution only because so many queue to sell their vapourware in this manner

Precision Medicine is a revolution in healthcare. Our world-leading biomedical researchers are at the forefront of this revolution, developing new early diagnostics and treatments for chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and stroke. Partnering with XXXXX, the University of XXXX has driven … vision in Precision Medicine, including the development of a shitload of infrastructure to support imaging, molecular pathology and precision medicine clinical trials……  XXXXXX is now one of the foremost locations in a three mile radius to pursue advances in Precision Medicine.

And He declared to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” Matthew 21:13

Direct URL for this post.

On statistics

Statistics — to paraphrase Homer Simpson’s thoughts on alcohol — is the cause of, and solution to, all of science’s problems.

Andrew Gelman

Of chaos, storms and forking paths: the principles of uncertainty

Direct URL for this post.

Take that, capitalism !

There are, of course, reasons why tattooing is different from other fine arts. First is the medium: human skin. Then there is the fact that a tattoo, unlike a painting or sculpture, cannot be sold on. “To a degree, the fine art world has jumped on it. But a tattoo has no resale value. That is crucial,” said London-based tattoo artist Alex Binnie.

Link

Direct URL for this post.

How the Nobel are fallen

As John Hammerbacher, Facebook’s first research scientist, remarked: “the best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads… And it sucks.”

Quoted in Stand Out of Our Light, James Williams

Direct URL for this post.

Transfer

A not wildly unsurprising comment to anybody in the ‘modern’ university.  A comment Russ Roberts made in an interview with David Epstein.

I want to share my favourite course evaluation when I used to teach in the classroom. So, I got a 1 from this student, on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is good and 1 is bad)…. a 1 is really demoralising. So, I look at it:

What does the student say? “This course was very unfair. Professor Roberts expected us to apply the material to things we had never seen before.”

Direct URL for this post.

Changing your mind — and how to avoid

The economist J.K. Galbraith once suggested that when people are “faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof”

The market is dead: long live the market | Wonkhe | Comment

Direct URL for this post.

Too old, too fat, too lazy and too rich

by reestheskin on 31/05/2019

Comments are disabled

Quite a motto to live by, but David Hume saw things more clearly than the rest of us.

Hume’s ironic wit and humour make him a biographer’s dream. After his History of England proved to be a tremendous critical and popular success, his publisher entreated him for another volume, only to receive the memorable rebuff:

 

“I have four reasons for not writing: I am too old, too fat, too lazy and too rich.”

 

When at a last dinner before Hume’s death in 1776, Smith complained of the cruelty of the world in taking him from them, Hume said: “No, no. Here am I, who have written on all sorts of subjects calculated to excite hostility, moral, political, and religious, and yet I have no enemies; except, indeed, all the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the Christians.” There are many other such stories.

 

How Adam Smith would fix capitalism | Financial Times

The information society

by reestheskin on 27/05/2019

Comments are disabled

This is a little old, but I snapped it as I was passing through a hospital. It speaks volumes about the state of learning and engagement in the NHS.

A diagnosis not to miss: email apnea

A phenomenon that occurs when a person opens their email inbox to find many unread messages, inducing a “fight-or-flight” response that causes the person to stop breathing.

James Williams, ‘Stand Out of Our Light’

I wonder when this will be recognised as a bona fide occupational disease.

Direct URL for this post.

You need a wallet biopsy

“However, if a wallet biopsy – one of the procedures in which American hospitals specialise – discloses that the victims are uninsured, it transfers them to public institutions.”

In Paul Starr, ‘The Social Transformation of American Medicine’.

Direct URL for this post.

Why wait so long?

Apparently, on average, doctors interrupt patients within eighteen seconds of beginning their story. When we tell lawyers about this, they wonder why their medical friends wait so long.

Quoted in the ‘The Future of the Professions

Direct URL for this post.

“There’s a classic medical aphorism,” he recalls. “‘Listen to the patient, they’re telling you the diagnosis.’ Actually, a lot of patients are just telling you a lot of rubbish, and you have to stop them and ask the pertinent questions.”

Jed Mercurio: ‘Facts used to have power. Now stupidity is a virtue’ | The Guardian

The question is when?

Direct URL for this post.

All in the stars

The story is about the ‘approval’ by the Norwegian higher education regulator of courses in astrology. The justification is interesting, relying on the fact that “astrologers had good employment prospects”. So that is alright then. To be fare the regulators argue that the can only enforce the ‘law’, as is. You can find similar such goings on close to the homes of many of us in the UK. (Time Higher Education, 28th March, 2019).

Direct URL for this post.

‘Joy’

Not the word I usually associate with student descriptions of their emotional state on being taught (except after the exam). Sadly. But the word featured in a teaching management meeting today. Made me smile.

Contrast this with the quote from a book on reforming engineering education, “A Whole New Engineer

Go into the bathrooms at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology (MIT) and you will see an acronym scrawled on the walls of the stalls: IHTFP. It means “I Hate This F** king Place.” (IHTFP is also found in the service academies and other elite engineering programs.) Whether this remains the true sentiment of MIT students today or merely a tradition handed down from generation to generation isn’t clear….

Direct URL for this post.

De Selby’s numerical calculations

My experience of Irish government state employees at the ‘border’ is that they aim to be the antithesis of ‘hostile’. It is not a bad USP. Passing through Dublin or Cork is an enjoyable experience: “Welcome home Jonathan’, is not the most formal salute; or, in the case of my wife, “Lisa — from Mulfulira—I remember you”. But this aside in the Economist, brings a little of the Flann O’Brien to the party.

In the 1970s, when contraceptives were still banned in the Irish republic, a family-planning campaigner went south with 40,000 condoms in his station wagon; his insistence that they were all “for personal use” was met with good-humoured banter by an Irish police patrol.

The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics. By Diarmaid Ferriter. (reviewed in the economist)

Direct URL to this post

Noting that 1,500 people had travelled to Davos by private jet to hear David Attenborough talk about climate change, he said he was bewildered that no one was talking about raising taxes on the rich.

[Link]

Econ101

by reestheskin on 30/01/2019

Comments are disabled

Seen in George Square. I get the Econ101 bit, the 1984 reference, but… And no, I can’t manage crosswords either — although I shared a flat with somebody who, as a student, refused to leave his bed until he had completed the Telegraph crossword. There were studies, and then those other studies.

Skin centre

by reestheskin on 30/01/2019

Comments are disabled

Not that sort of….

Talking 22nd Century Skills: All Steamed Up.

by reestheskin on 17/01/2019

Comments are disabled

Talking 22nd Century Skills with @realpbanksley – Rick Hess Straight Up – Education Week

I noted that he seems to be one of the leading thinkers in the push to rebrand STEM as STEAMED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, and Everything Delightful).

A well argued and evidence based article like this will get you nowhere. This is Britain. Better to put some bollox on a bus.

A comment from theSwedish Chef’ on the FT.

The last desperate stand of virility….

by reestheskin on 06/01/2019

Comments are disabled

She crossed to his desk and shook his hand. Noticed the telltale transplant plugs dotting his scalp, sprouting hair like little tufts of yellow grass in a last desperate stand of virility. That’s what you deserved for marrying a trophy wife.

[from Body Double; Tess Gerritsen]

New Year’s Day with attitude

by reestheskin on 01/01/2019

Comments are disabled

Yes, Carrot weather continues to insult me. Or does it know something I don’t ?

On relaxing and distressing

by reestheskin on 28/12/2018

Comments are disabled

Yep, that time of year. This is how Irvine Welsh puts it. Remember: art is not a mirror; art is a hammer.

I’m generally pretty relaxed and very rarely suffer from stress. I see my role as more of a “stress enabler” in others. The last thing I would do if I was stressed would be to read a book. I’d rather write one.

[Link]