Friday, 27 February 2009
During the 1980s, I have often puzzled about the sort of life that people try to lead in the modern world. Before I met Linda I had, I felt, already produced a break from the consumer society that has become such a feature of the last decade (of course Henry Thoreau wrote about it all in similar terms in the 1850s!) I was passionately interested in travel and saw myself pottering around the world while temping as an accountant to earn money. Meeting Linda put a stop to that plan though I have always said that I hope to visit Tibet (more likely Nepal) one day [ . . . . . ]
(Addendum. I had sought over the next 15 years to produce a situation in which I might revert to something like my original plan once Emma was settled at college. There were hints of this life when I was travelling in the Land Rover across Europe last summer, but recent events have, perhaps, moved the possibility further away. This remains a great problem for me in respect of my philosophy of life. Of course, my views on consumerism are unchanged)
February 27th 1995
Baring Bank dominates the news. We are all amazed that it appears to have collapsed following exchange traded contracts. Everyone concerned with derivatives has given all sorts of likely scenarios that could cause a collapse, but no one suspected it would be an exchange that would have such a thing happen through it. We all assumed it would be OTC. We await further news with interest
Back home, Linda remains unwell but at least Emma is back at school tomorrow. Emma and I read a bit of her junior astronomy book tonight. I would really like her to move on to older reading - longer stories that take several nights for instance
(Addendum - I was working at Hanson when the Baring's story broke and did most of the work related to keeping up to date with derivative market developments. Even then, there was a trend towards ludicrously complex derivatives - things with rates squared in them for instance. I remember Banker's Trust used to send me a ludicrous idea every week!
Years later, Emma would accompany me to half a dozen "Astronomy Weekends" at Oxford University. Sadly we will miss this year's as it is the weekend she returns to Cambridge. Emma was a slow starter with reading, but certainly made up for it later!)
Thursday, 26 February 2009
As I have wound down my obsessive MSc work, so it has freed up time for some other things. Exercise for instance. I have now completed the first 5 workouts from the 49-DVD box set that Linda has recently acquired from the USA. These are weight workout and leave me really aching badly. I am not keeping up with the schedule but at least I have started. I have added around 15 lbs of weight over the last 6 or 7 months which is not good. So at least I have started to do something about it. Maybe 3 or 4 months time I will have some progress.
Over lunch today - a very sensible poached eggs on toast - I watched an old edition of Horizon that I acquired on the internet not long ago - This was the second Richard Feynman programme, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, from 1981. Feynman died at just 69 years old. He is one of those people whose loss I have felt most. The world is a worse place for his absence. What would SSK make of his approach? Oddly enough, I find that I have 14 books either by or on Feynman.
These seem to both be pictures in some way related to apple.com - not sure why
Later in the afternoon I re-read the chapter from What do you care what other people think? about Arlene. Of all the films I've seen, or music I've heard, or books I've read, the story of Feynman's marriage to Arlene is still one of the saddest things I have ever experienced.
I was able to find the quarter-final and final on a tv show website and downloaded them for viewing last night. The quarter final is a complete slaughter of Exeter - something like 350 pts to 15. The final was far more interesting, as it took the star of the Oxford team more than half the show to get going. Down 70-0 after five minutes and with 4 minutes to go, down 190 to 165, Oxford rally to win 265 to 190.
The press have focused on the captain, Gail Trimble, who is studying for a PhD in Latin literature. She attributes her skill to a lifetime's reading. The odd aspect of the story is that she has been so picked on by some parts of the press. Some commentators are comparing it to the treatment Jade Goody gets - formed from the same critical views.
As always with this show, the main enjoyment is to see how many questions you can answer. Linda and I did ok, but were clearly nowhere near the standard of Ms Trimble.
"A random blast from the past"
February 26th 1995
Not sleep very well overnight. Up at 6:30 and sat watching bits of "Passion for Angling". Next weekend is my 3 day trip. The weather remains awful and I'm considering going walking in the Lakes instead as the caravan is now open. I went for a long walk down to the river this morning. It was massively flooded again. All rather depressing really. Linda is not very well and is not looking forward to tomorrow when Emma has her last holiday day. She won't have much rest this week either with the preparations for her parent's visit on Saturday. Emma played "Animal Quest" a lot and is doing very well on the PC. Linda cooked spaghetti and Emma was really good about going to bed again - is this the start of a trend?
(Addendum - We have been living in Oxfordshire 6 months or so and I had been keen to do some fishing. My planned weekend trip was to Ringwood and turned out to be a nightmare due to the weather. Emma is coming up to her sixth birthday)
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Our dissertation seminar is back as a group and I was first on for a presentation on a past dissertation. Mine was on a paper called "Gruesome simplicity" from 2004 which was a very high scoring paper which I was not impressed by. No idea really why it was marked so high! As has happened before, my presentation turned out to be by far the best of the six today - a good handout (no one else gave out anything) and well structured. Every one else was pretty poor. So once again, it probably wasn't worth going down to see.
From reading Robert Fripp's blog (http://www.dgmlive.com/) I have hit on the idea of including some bits from my diaries from the distant past for roughly the same day. I had a very quick sort out of them all and will try, for the next few blogs to select something interesting from them. Here is the first and one that I do rather like.
"A random blast from the past"
Sunday February 26th 1984
I called in at Chris's place and stayed for an hour or so before heading off for Victoria and the crowds of people waiting outside the Palace Theatre for the best gig in town.
Of course I breezed through the entrance, cassette recorder and all. But the problems of illegally taping concerts don't end here as I discovered. For one thing it is a good idea to discover where the microphone is on it before it got dark. After Dead Can Dance had finished - who were very good - I discovered that the machine hadn't worked at all which was a shame. I sorted that out and was all set to go when the Cocteau Twins came on. Loads of people went down the front and I followed to get a better sound in case it did work this time. And what a shock. Second song is my favourite from the second Peel Session and unrecorded till now. Shivers went down my back at this and I could feel goose bumps on my neck. Song number 6 was "Blind dumb deaf" from the first album. I changed the tape over at 8, just in time for "Musette and drums". They went off after and everyone cheered for ages and eventually they came back on to repeat a song they had already done. Liz Fraser looked overcome. My tape scored a 6.5 out of 10
(Addendum - This night was the first time I saw Dead Can Dance, and the first concert I tried to bootleg tape. Two months later they played a few shows in London as headliner that I saw - Brixton Loughborough Hotel and Fulham Town Hall. By then I had improved my taping technique and made two beautiful recordings of these shows - still the best copies available on the worldwide bootleg community! I have seen DCD over 40 times now. By contrast, I was coming to the end of my liking of the Cocteaus - they were losing their early edgy sound and becoming soft and fluffy. The "Chris" mentioned above is presumably Chris Lever)
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
I have not been doing much MSc work lately as I've been focusing on work related to get a new job. But I discovered yesterday that I am first speaker at Wednesday's Dissertation seminar in which I have to appraise a previous thesis. I have chosen the high scoring "Gruesome simplicity" thesis from a few year's ago. I was not that impressed given its high score. But I only spent an hour or so reading it and jotting down some notes.
Sold a CD that perhaps I would have liked to have kept if only for its extreme unusualness - Phil Niblock's G2 - two 30 minute drones. Someone in Italy has good taste it seems. Listened to it this afternoon and very nice it was to.
Evening listening was Boris "The Thing which Solomon Overlooked" - a 3-cd set. More extreme noise.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Also saw Tony, the allotment organiser, to make sure he knew that I would definitely be using my bit this year after last year's absence. He is planning to get someone else onto the right hand side of my allotment - that has turned out to be far too much of a challenge for me to do. Apparently there is now a waiting list and I might have lost my plot if I hadn't made clear my plans.
Finally I saw Chris, one of my immediate neighbours, for a quick chat. Her plot is looking very good. My other neighbours are still very active it seems as well, so should catch up with them soon.
So a quick trip to Millets and the purchase of some compost for the front-garden raised beds, along with the first few things to plant - onions, garlic, some lettuce. I am quite looking forward to the year. Sadly Linda seems to have changed her mind about helping me with it - a shame as she had been so keen last year.
Wife and Daughter looking very smart - Linda in her £14 Primark bargain dress!
We sat at the very end of one of the side benches with two of Emma's friends - Ellie and Abbie. The food was pretty good as you'd expect. A small selection of fellows and their spouses on view. I was disappointed to see they weren't eating swan (as in Porterhouse Blue). There was some sort of Oxford-Cambridge event on tonight so the Hall was packed.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Friday, 20 February 2009
My "exercise" for the day consists of an hour in the garden clearing five of the raised beds. My thought have turned towards the allotment and what we might try and do this year with it. In the light of this, I have started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, recounting her family's attempt at eating just local food for a year. And I have been looking at some new recipes to try out over the next few weeks - get me back to thinking about food in a serious way again.
Key music for the last few days - the Boris & Merzbow version of The Evilone which sobs - the most extraordinary track from the extraordinary CD Rock Dreams
And tonight we cook some delicious (and local) pork and leak sausages and watch "Marley and Me". This inspires us to look into the cost of husky puppies - about £450 to £600 apparently.
John Milton was lecturing on Galileo today - I have stopped thinking of this as a seminar as there is little interaction. Another very thoughtful talk, but not really adding much to what I already know from having read The Cambridge Companion to Galileo while in Italy last year.
Lunch with Caroline and Victor for the third week running.
There is a really odd fellow sitting next to me on the coach home tonight. He asks me a couple of questions about when the coach will arrive in Oxford and then asks me if I am a professor at the University (as I am reading a pretty serious book). We get talking and it turns out he is one of those fringe physics people who is convinced of the healing properties of the Higgs Boson and of consuming huge amounts of vitamin D. A total crackpot who I am stuck talking to for 25 minutes, when I could have been reading or listening to Boris on the ipod!
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Three hours work with "Spyhunter" and another anti-virus programme and it seems to have cleared. No doubt this is the inevitable consequence of downloading various things off the internet. But one good effect was that I have backed up everything off this PC. Linda has a friend who works as a PC virus de-bugger so we do have someone I can get to have a look at it at some point.
My main work today is to write pages of ideas for my dissertation - a sort of stream of consciousness plan in which I write down everything that comes into my head for several hours. I end up with 3000 words covering 12 pages. The earliest ideas are about postmodernism being the latest in the enlightenment-romanticism battle since the Scientific Revolution and linked to the internalist / externalist debate in history of science. I suspect that few people at LSE take this area very seriously so I should be able to write a dissertation that looks quite different from most others.
Slowly working though my huge collection of Boris music, I have come across their CD Dronevil from 2003 and a quite amazing track called The Evilone which sobs - a quite blistering 15 minutes of noise with a guitar solo over the top. That the guitarist is a woman adds to the unusualness of this it seems to me. Strangely compelling. Wonder what the title means?
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
But the newspaper today said that the site was now free, so I have registered, joined the group of people linked to Kenilworth School who graduated in 1981 and am amazed to discover just how many people that I did know at school are on the site. And perhaps more oddly, I am amazed by just how many names I had forgotted over the years.
So among people on the site were Tim Baumfield, Andy Belgrove, Louise Burgess, Sarah Clutton, Nick Cox, Elisabeth Cunliffe, Amanda David, Huw Davies, Judith Fardon, Mark Finney, Suzanne Foster, Sue Gould, Alison Griffith, Robert Griffiths, Sian Hamer, Richard Harrison, Debbie Hinks, Simon Inchley, Ann Jackson, Gill Jowers, David Law, Cathy Leach, Paul Lewis, Sally Love, Helen Manger, Anthony Marsh, Clare Moseley, Alison Muckersie, Neil Orridge, Pete Farr, Laura Robertson, Mark Robinson, Rachel Sharman, Louise Sheard, Iain Shearer, Mark Shuttleworth, Laurence Sibley, Ian Tebby, Helen Tredwell, Helena White, Yvette Woods, Mark Woodland and Elinor Woolley.
What is the immediate thing that springs to mind when I think of each name? So some free association . . .
Tim Baumfield was, for many periods, quite a close friend. He worked at the Bear when I was there and, famously, went out with the barmaid Cressida, who was several inches taller than him. Last saw him in a pub in Kenilworth about 10 or 12 years ago with Jonathan Oliver and Mark Tatman. Andrew Belgrove ("Belly") was something of a wild bloke when we were growing up. He once avoided paying for a curry by climbing out of the upstairs window of the restaurant. Linda and I once met him in the Bear and Ragged Staff pub in Kenilworth. He was, for many years, employed as a van driver! Louise Burgess is a very familiar name but I can't quite put a face to it at the moment.
Sarah Clutton lived near me. She once came down to London with me and a few others for a day out. Nick Cox once tried to hit on Sally Barrass, a girl I was taking to a Genesis show at the Birmingham NEC at Christmas 1981. Elisabeth Cunliffe was very smart and had curly hair. Amanda David was best friends with Alison Griffith, who were the first two girls I ever saw in their underwear! Huw Davies is the only person I have tried to contact via this site. He was my best friend for years and an usher at our wedding. Haven't seen him for perhaps 18 years. I will no doubt write more about Huw at some stage.
Judith Fardon is a name I had forgotten till now - can't quite picture her at the moment, but she was in my class for 5 or 7 years! Mark Finney was a part of the Baumfield-Davies-Inchley-Mike Bolton group to which I also belonged. He came on a walking trip to the Lake District with me once. We stayed at mum and dad's caravan and did my first ascent of Scafell Pike together. Suzanne Foster was lovely. I once sent her a valentine's card, but it was unrequited. Sue Gould was also lovely. She was part of my small outward bound group when we all went to the Lake District in 1978. I think she is married to Lawrence Sibley and lives in Windy Arbour.
Alison Griffith was the girl I fancied most at school. She had the most beautiful eyes. She was also the first girl to wear a really short skirt to school and she had great legs. We were actually quite good friends and occasionally went a tiny bit further. She memorably got really drink at my house once while my parents were away. We spent much of the evening drinking red wine and listening to Fripp and Eno's Evening Star with the lights turned out - it was a far out night! That was the occasion when she and Amanda David stripped to their underwear. I have loads of memories of Alison. On one of the last times I saw her, she asked me why I had never asked her out. I said I was too shy and didn't want to spoil our friendship. She said that was a shame and she would have definitely gone out with me. I regretted that for years. I had heard she had quickly got married after school and had quite a number of kids. Her online profile doesn't say anything though.
Robert Griffiths used to occasionally come round my house. We weren't close firends though. Sian Hamer and I were at primary school together and once sang a duet in a Gang Show - "If you were the only girl in the world and I was the only boy". Once, many years later, when drunk in the White Lion pub, we sang it in front of everyone and could remember all the words and our choreography. Richard Harrison ("Harry") was very sporty - don't remember much about him though.
Debbie Hinks helped me with the production credits for the movie we made at Easter 1980. She married Simon Inchley I believe - childhood sweethearts. Simon and I went fishing together loads of times (maybe 30+ times) and he was part of the Irish holiday group in the summer of 1980 - had the most amazing bowling action at cricket and was great at tennis. Me and Kathy Yorke beat him and Sue Gould in the school mixed doubles competition two years in a row. Ann Jackson had beautiful red hair and was a friend of Joanne Styring - the third girl I ever kissed. Gill Jowers sat next to me in maths and physics "A" level class for two years and we worked as a team. I have many fond memories of her. She had liked older boyfriends though. David Law was my main rival for the affections of Rachel Sharman, my first girlfriend. Cathy Leach was one of the main organisers of things at school - if there is ever a school reunion, she would be the person to organise it.
Paul Lewis was a maths genius (or so it seemed to us) and a deeply committed Christian. Sally Love is a very familiar name but I can't quite picture her. Same with Helen Manger. Anthony Marsh was the main "jock" in our class - a very fast sprinter, great rugby player, etc. There is a picture of him on the site - I would not have recognised him. Clare Moseley was a tall, slim blonde girl who also liked older men - rumour had it that she was going out with a garage owner. Alison Muckersie was at Park Hill (primary school) with me, where her dad was a teacher (?). She had very dark hair and lived just up the road from me. Neil Orridge was in the year below me and a friend of my brother, but I could be wrong about that. Pete Farr was best friends with David Honeybone, who lived two doors from me and with whom I grew up - we were born just 10 days apart and our mum's were best friends. David was an usher at our wedding and I haven't seen him since - he now lives in Australia. Pete was the main founder of the school band - the Duffle Boys.
Laura Robertson was also gorgeous from what I remember. She was in my class up until the 6th form and then in my economics "A" level group. Long dark hair and a beautiful face. Mark Robinson went out with Alison Griffiths for ages and then went to work at CERN.
Rachel Sharman was my first girlfriend and I will always think rather fondly of that whole experience. We hooked up around the time of the Lake District outward board trip, but weren't together long. I was totally out of my depth with her. But she was the first girl I ever kissed or held hands with . . . so she was my "first love". Her online profile ways she is married, lives in Yorkshire, has three kids and works part-time in a school. Good for her!
Louise Sheard was something of a "babe", though I don't think I ever spoke to her. Most of the boys at school really fancied her. Iain Shearer is a name I recognise but can't at present put any events to. Mark Shuttleworth and me were good friends on and off. Last saw him in Forest Gate in 1985. His profile suggests he has done very well. Laurence Sibley and I were good friends for a short period of time when he was going out with Caroline Kemp, who lived just up the road from me. Ian Tebby went out for ages with Val Taylor, my second girlfriend. Helen Tredwell was best friends with Val Taylor and Rachel Sharman.
Helena White was one of our year's racier girls, from what I remember. Yvette Woods is another name I know really well but which I can't think of a specific incident for. Mark Woodland was a great swimmer and a front row forward for the rugby team. Elinor Woolley was very tall and slim with dark hair - I think.
So many names I haven't thought about for years. But only Huw that I have tried to get in touch with.
A very strange experience looking through the site I must say. I wonder if anyone will contact me as a result of me being on there - somehow I doubt it. I was, it has be said, rather an odd child!
Monday, 16 February 2009
Today's notes were on the Enlightenment / romanticism distinction and its corresponding appearance in Modernism / Postmodernism. Note sure I want to do too much on this theme - but it might be worth a paragraph of two. My main current idea is to keep widening into more areas that I have read, while at the same time making it punchier and more focused. In many cases, just one sentence arises from pages of reading
I am also pondering on starting the dissertation with Jardine's Kepler thesis - on the birth of philosophy and history of Science - also Kepler's view on causation as being the source of the romantic counter- attack (an idea from Holton)
Today's paper also has a review of Gabriel Weston's A Surgeon's Story. I have been thinking about reading another book on tales of a surgeon for some while - When the Air hits your Brain remains one of my all-time favourite books
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Today was the first day without any work at all for ages - though I did read 5 pages of Ferguson's Tycho & Kepler while having a bath. Does that count?
Some interesting points that did gel with some thoughts I had had while on my course. For instance, the idea of Universities as networks connecting to teaching resources online, rather that direct places of teaching. This is an old idea of Morris Zapp, fictional professor from David Lodge's Small World. The LSE library is a good example of this. Books are not the mian thing - it is the access to online resources that really matters
Van Heldon's Telescopes and Authority from Galileo to Cassini,
Finocchiaro on the Galileo affair (a preliminary work for his book Retrying Galileo 1633 to 1992)
A 1965 review by Buchdahl of Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Agassi's Towards a Historiography of Science
Daston's article on Burtt's Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science
A terrible article by Tucker called A Theory of Historiography as a Pre-science
Stump's article on Koyre's approach to History of Science
An introductory book on The Enlightenment. A new book has just arrived on this topic
Lehman's Sign of the Times - the response of deconstructivists to the de Man affair
A new book on Dirac called The Strangest Man
Ferguson's Tycho and Kepler
Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love
A reasonably varied collection I reckon.
But still time for an hour or so reading in the library - mainly a Shea article on Galileo. My ipod listening remains mainly Boris - today it was Smile live again
I was surprised to discover this morning that Caroline has heart trouble of some sort - she was struggling with the top of a water bottle and volunteered this as an explanation. Yet she is only 29 I think.
John Milton's talk today was on Kepler - no sign that these are moving towards seminars as such. Though I know alot about K, there was still some good stuff in this talk - esp Gingerich idea of K's zero'th law (i.e. pre- first), that the plane of all planetary orbits passes through the sun (not the earth, as in Copernicus) - i.e. it is the sun that drive the solar system. Years ago, I tried to establish this from my own observations but wasn't able to conceptualise the geometry adequately. Still, I was only 14 or so at the time
John also covered the "vicarious hypothesis" in more detail than I would have expected and noted Kepler's first use of the terms "satellite" and "orbit".
I was particularly impressed with the discussion of why mars is the "only" candidate by which Kepler could have discovered first two laws. We also covered how the observations of Mars at opposition were used so that observers on the Earth sees Mars as an observer on the Sun would - what I think is called "heliocentric longitude"
Also lots of material on how Kepler is not a "curve fitter" and discussions of the various alternatives to circles - various ovals, egg shapes etc - so it is not obvious that ellipse is a good choice. Overall, a very good talkk (but not a seminar). And my admiration for Kepler contnues to grow
Lunch with Caroline and Victor downstairs at the Garrick. Once again I have skipped the "Philosophy of Economics" seminar - not done the necessary reading
Back home, the recent book on Dirac has arrived.
Monday, 9 February 2009
Music listening is currently Bhattacharya live at the University of Calilfornia - Berkeley 2004 - just over two hours, plus Merzbox cd 2
Linda has had a huge DVD set come from the USA - a 46 cds, 3 month programme of mainly weight workouts. I started today! Doubt I will be able to keep to three DVDs a week
Very small amount of MSc work as a result of the above. Very demotivational to have to be working on material that is so boring compared to my MSc course.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Probably every English blogger has been putting snowy scenes on their blogs - no reason though why I shouldn't also.
In respect of my MSc, I am getting to a stage where I am expecting to not do much more reading (a few weeks time?), and instead will be starting on exam prep and the actual writing of my dissertation. There have been several things that have had a big impact on me as I've been doing the MSc. One major effect has been to be able to access a large number of journals online and, as a result, to realise something of the huge amount of scholarship that is already out there - this raises problems such as how to choose what to work on? Is there always plenty left? Or is this the main reason why scholarship gets down to finer and finer points?
One recent development in my thoughts on doing a PhD has been my discovery that it is possible to study History of Science to PhD level at Oxford. It turns out that this is offered through the History department (rather than the more usual Philosophy or Science departments). It would be the obvious choice to study there. And living in Longworth is close enough to fullfill the residency requirement that Oxbridge has.
But one downside of the MSc has been my increased awareness of the negatives associated with academia. Reading books like Adams' The Academic Tribes and Frost & Taylor's Rhythms of Academic Life, together with my own observations at LSE, have produced a much more negative view of academic life than perhaps I had before. So maybe my goal would be to become a "gentleman scholar", publishing a few articles a year in various journals. But if I do a PhD, I would like to be a class teacher for undergrads.
On the work front, I am psyched up to a return to work, but am not really thrilled about it. I have some opportunities progressing, and am very hopeful that one of them would be very suitable (though I am not sure I have done enough to get this one). I should hear in the next week if this is going ahead to the next stage. But the upside of going back to work is that I would definitely be able to do a PhD either starting autumn 2010 or 2011.
There was an article in Saturday's Guardian on vagabonding travel. This was written by Rolf Potts who published a book on the same subject a couple of years ago and which linked in very well with Buryn's Vagabonding in the USA, which I read years ago. I remain very taken with this pattern of travel - it is very similar to aspects of my travels last summer. And of course The Dharma Bums remains among my all time favourite books. So very tempting . . .
Saturday, 7 February 2009
Friday, 6 February 2009
Today's work is mainly two articles - Thackray's The Pre-History of an Academic Discipline and Dear's Jesuit Mathematical Science and the Reconstitution of Experience in the Early Seventeenth Century. The former was considerably less interesting than I had hoped, the latter more so (though it did seem hugely repetitious to me)
Interspersed with work, I am trying to find the motivation to work out how my new phone works. I have never really bothered to do this before, but perhaps should try to master a few basic commands (e.g. texting). It seems to hugely amuse the rest of the family that I have never worked how to do this important modern skill
Current music is one of the collaboration cds by Boris and Merzbow - radical reinterpretations of many tracks that I have come to love over the past month or so. e.g. Rainbow, Flower Sun Rain, Just Abandoned Myself, Feedbacker, and so on. Basically these consist of slightly reworked versions of the songs with sheets of noise overlaying the original tracks. Am I ready yet to start on the Merzbox, the Merbow 50 cd boxset?
A last minute, Tuesday-evening decision to go down to LSE for two days. It seems that the worst of snow has past and that the school would be opening again
The snow of the last few days has just about gone. Not too much bother sorting out the car this morning for my early start to get the "express" coach to Marble Arch - at LSE by 8:30. The library not yet back to normal - all fines will apparently be rescinded. Spent an hour or so working on a Kepler paper by Aiton from 30 years ago setting out the then-current research on Kepler (as such work peaked for the 500th anniversary of his birth in 1971)
I have a 30 minute meeting with Miklos at 10:00 to go through where I am with my dissertation - this is a general chat but seems to me to provide very little encouragement (just like Caroline said when she went to see Miklos about her dissertation a couple of months ago). But I am pleased with my progress and not that fussed about what Miklos has to say at this stage. Next person in at 10:30 was Mark, who I think is in real trouble with his dissertation given his hopeless presentation last week (and the fact that his is due this year, unlike mine)
Bought a remaindered book on Michelangelo and then settled in library for another couple of hours - more reading on Kepler. Then decided on making the long walk to my hotel in Lancaster Gate rather than going by tube - I am trying to improve my breathing a little so every opportunity for some light exercise should be taken. I am so out of shape at the moment. A nice room this time (esp as it has a bath rather than a shower). Dozed for an hour then spent a couple of hours reading Kennedy's Pursuit - the story of the sinking of the Bismark in WWII - then a couple more hours work before the football at 8:00.
Awake at 5:30 after a very good night's sleep - finished Pursuit late last night. This morning was focused on the Westman paper on Kepler and the "realist's dilemma" - another really good Kepler paper (and one that makes me wonder whether there is really much left to cover on Kepler. A decent "Life and Thought" book would be good though)
Linda called as I walked to the tube to say that there had been heavy snow in Oxfordshire overnight and I should think about getting back asap. I was planning to miss Philosophy of Economics again, so should have been setting off home around 1:30. But got to King's to find that the seminar was cancelled because John Milton can't get into London. So have a drink with Caroline and Victor back at LSE and set off home about 12:00
A phone call this afternoon re possible work. This sounded quite upbeat while I have been less so this week. So maybe things are still promising on this front. I have been psyching myself up for work again - not very successfully it must be said. But it is true that it is hard to avoid finding the current economic situation some sort of concern and maybe this is an excellent reason to get back into work?
Monday, 2 February 2009
I spent quite a lot of the day researching Corporate Bond funds. We are planning to make some investments in these over the next few weeks. I am looking for ones with about 5 years average duration, an average rating of A- or BBB+, a yield of about 8% and a greater than -10% fall in 2008. So far I have a few candidates. I am intending to start buying some blocks next week when I have had a further think about it all. I would be hoping, on a two or three year view, to perhaps produce an average 10% per annum return. It is very likely that base rates will fall to 1% this week, and our investment returns are dwindling along with this. I feel deeply agrieved that savers such as Linda and myself are being hit to help borrowers.
But the corporate bond fund plan is definitely better than my other plan of buying another house in Oxford - This has too much remaining downside and upfront cost compared to the bond plan. Will hopefully have a selection of, say, six funds very soon.
Down early for the dissertation seminar. These are the last two presentations by individual students outlining their ideas as they stand today. And, perhaps oddly enough, both were terrible presentations today. You would think that having had more than half the teaching of the course, they would have had some idea of what they wanted to do - but apparently not. And they were even worse if you compare with actual dissertations from the past few years - they are in real trouble in my view. Next week we have a change of format with one-on-one meetings with Miklos in his office. I am on first next week, then have two Wednesdays off.
Across to Charing Cross Road at lunchtime to review and purchase Kelley's The Descent of Ideas. This does look a very interesting take on the history of ideas
Then to my hotel and a bit of time to prepare for my work-related meeting this afternoon. This seemed to go ok, but I did miss the best chances to ensure that I was seen as a really good candidate. Instead, I think he may have thought that I would have been unsuitable due to the amount of admin involved in this position - I should have downplayed my "exciting" past and emphasised the similarities of the proposed role with what I was doing a year or two ago.
Then across to Liverpool Street Station to meet Robert St John for a quick drink. We chatted about the current RBS situation, the general banking market and corporate bonds. I was interested in quizzing Robert about current bond markets as this might be an area where it would make sense for us to invest some savings. Remarkably, 10 year sterling for Imperial Tobacco would cost about 400b.p over gilts. Robert also had some interesting points about bank facilities generally. I am a little concerned that we might lose our bank facility and am planning to draw it down over the next month or two.
Across to LSE for 8:00 and some reading of various books on the David Irving Holocaust-denial libel trial from a few years ago. I have become interested in the possible problems created by the holocaust for postmodernist history - is this a case study that shows the poverty of postmodernism?
Also reading some of Lindberg & Numbers' God and Nature - especially the Westman piece on Copernicanism and the Church, in preparation for this morning's seminar. This week's seminar with John Milton is even worse than last week - there is no chance of really asking any questions, it is just one long monologue. Not a seminar at all.
I had lunch and a long chat with Caroline at the Garrick at LSE. We are joined by Anne Marie later (who has definitely decided to go part-time). Lots of interesting points of view about the course, people's study, their dissertations, etc. As a rsult, I missed the Philosophy of Economics seminar - though I much preferred what I did do instead