Miscellaneous

Throwing woks

by reestheskin on 03/03/2020

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Nice article in the LRB by Wang Xiuying, ‘The Word from Wuhan’.

(Throwing woks: when everyone denies all responsibility and tries to shift the blame back onto the blamer, they are busy ‘throwing woks’).

Throwing woks is an art you need to understand if you want to get things done in China. Whether you’re building an airport, applying for a research grant or inviting a foreign national to give a talk, you have to fill in so many forms, and get approval from so many departments with all their competing demands, that you risk getting trapped somewhere in the middle: whichever way you turn you risk causing upset or offence in one quarter or another. In the workplace too, a step in the wrong direction can provoke a superior and ruin a career, so that sometimes it’s wisest to do nothing at all. Until a virus strikes, that is.

With couples confined together 24/7, ordinary marital friction soon escalates into all-out war. Domestic servants, often migrants, who went out of town over the Chinese New Year, have been unable to return to work – but someone still has to do the household chores. Men slump on the sofa playing video games or hide behind a laptop pretending to work, while still expecting three meals a day and fresh laundry. A joke went around:

Client: My wife and I have been quarantined together for 14 days and we’ve decided to get back together! I don’t want to go ahead with the divorce. Can you refund the fee?

Lawyer: 14 days … hmmmm … Let’s not rush it: I think we’re still in business.

On one word after another

by reestheskin on 28/01/2020

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Well, I doubt if any readers of these scribblings will be shocked. After all TIJABP. But this piece by the editor of PNAS wonders if the day of meaningful editing is over. I hope not. Looking backwards over my several hundred papers, the American Journal of Human Genetics was the most rigorous and did the most to improve our manuscript.

On a subject no one wants to read about (about which no one wants to read?) | PNAS

“Communication” remains in the vocabulary of scientific publishing—for example, as a category of manuscript (“Rapid Communications”) and as an element of a journal name (Nature Communications)—not as a vestigial remnant but as a vital part of the enterprise. The goal of communicating effectively is also why grammar, with its arcane, baffling, or even irritating “rules,” continues to matter. With the rise of digital publishing, attendant demands for economy and immediacy have diminished the role of copyeditor. The demands are particularly acute in journalism. As The New York Times editorial board member Lawrence Downs (4) lamented, “…in that world of the perpetual present tense—post it now, fix it later, update constantly—old-time, persnickety editing may be a luxury…. It will be an artisanal product, like monastery honey and wooden yachts.” Scientific publishing is catching up to journalism in this regard.

We need a science of the night

by reestheskin on 03/01/2020

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One-third of everyone employed in London, 1.6 million people, work at night.

In 2018, at least 8,855 people slept rough on the streets of London, a 140% increase over the past decade, with similar trends globally.

We need a science of the night

All that glitters in silicon

San Francisco conducted its biennial point-in-time homelessness survey. The numbers are up sharply. Two observations: first, most people are from SF, not (contrary to myth) from elsewhere; and second, there are more people sleeping on the street in San Francisco (population: 870k) than in the whole of the UK (population: 66m). Link

Benedict’s Newsletter: No. 296

Summer flight

by reestheskin on 26/07/2019

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Not so much a jet plane, but I don’t know  exactly when I will be back either.

 

Sunday in Lisbon

“Catholicism imbued a spirit of rebellion and the ghost of faith.”

Well, I get that, too. In a review of Bruce Springsteen’s biography in the Economist.

Direct URL for this post.

Scale matters

by reestheskin on 12/02/2019

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No, not that sort of (dermatological scale). Adam Tooze quoted in FT Alphachat (or another link).

In three years China used more cement that the USA in the whole of the 20th century.

Wheelchairs not suitable for family viewing

by reestheskin on 26/12/2018

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I have forgotten which search rabbit hole I was down, but ended up at Robert Wyatt’s Wikipedia page. I know this story, or at least I knew the tale, but was uncertain about the veracity. The older I get the more I think social change happens ever faster. Yes, there is another more mundane explanation.

Robert Wyatt – Wikipedia

Two months later Wyatt put out a single, a cover version of “I’m a Believer”, which hit number 29 in the UK chart. Both were produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. There were strong arguments with the producer of Top of the Pops surrounding Wyatt’s performance of “I’m a Believer”, on the grounds that his use of a wheelchair “was not suitable for family viewing”, the producer wanting Wyatt to appear on a normal chair. Wyatt won the day and “lost his rag but not the wheelchair”.

The importance of obsession

by reestheskin on 16/12/2018

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How a Welsh schoolgirl rewrote the rules of publishing | Financial Times by Gillian Tett

In 2011, Beth Reeks, a 15-year-old Welsh schoolgirl studying for her GCSE exams, decided to write a teenage romantic novel. So she started tapping on her laptop with the kind of obsessive creative focus – and initial secrecy – that has been familiar to writers throughout history. “My parents assumed I was on Facebook or something when I was on my laptop – or I’d call up a document or internet page so it looked like I was doing homework,” she explained at a recent writers’ convention. “I wrote a lot in secret… and at night. I was obsessed.”

But Reeks took a different route: after penning eight chapters of her boy-meets-girl novel, The Kissing Booth, she posted three of them on Wattpad, an online story-sharing platform …. As comments poured in, Reeks turned to social media for more ideas. “I started a Tumblr blog and a Twitter account for my writing. I used them to promote the book…[and] respond to anyone who said they liked the story,” she explained in a recent blog post. 

… while Reeks was at university studying physics, her work was turned into an ebook, then a paperback (she was offered a three-book deal by the mighty Random House) and, this year, Netflix released it as a film, which has become essential viewing for many teenage girls.

“They have mobile phones, social media, but no proper toilets and clean water.” Link.

Inverse mentors and inverse role models

by reestheskin on 16/10/2018

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I do not like the term mentor. It is a perfectly fine word, it is just that I have a suspicion of the people who tend to use it. I prefer to think about people I would like to be like; or not. And think about how some people can help me; or hinder me. But the following exchange between Nassim Taleb and Tyler Cowen is fine.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Self-Education and Doing the Math (Ep. 41 – Live at Mercatus)

TALEB: I don’t know, but I know how to find inverse mentors.

COWEN: How do you do that?

TALEB: People — you know they’re doing something wrong, and you figure out what makes them do something wrong. There’s a fellow I worked with, and I knew that he was a complete failure but a nice person. When he would do something wrong, he was always caught into details. I realized that there’s only one set of details. You cannot get into more than one set of detail. So that’s one thing I learned.

Also, I find inverse role models, people you don’t want to be like when you grow up.You pick someone and you go with it. You have an instinct to know what you don’t want to look like. Look at what they’ve done, what they do, and then you counter-imitate. You do a reverse imitation, and it works.