Monday, 30 March 2009

PH 400 revision, Throwing Muses and allotment work

After a really enjoyable week working on PH404, History of Science, is is time to turn my attention to my other course, PH400, Philosophy of Science. This is perhaps my least favorite subject on the MSc, mainly because of it being the closest to my first degree. Also, it has to be admitted that I remain strongly opposed to the "received view" in P of S, focused as it is on confirmation theory and having little or no connection with the history of science. But the work has to be done and I have now main a start

For the first time in ages I had a look through the current offerings on dimeadozen - it has been many weeks since I last had a look here. One highlight that I did find today was a recent show by Throwing Muses. It seems that Kristin Hersh is now adopting a pattern of doing the occasional TM show. I used to follow what she was up to quite closely (as part of the sort of reading that also covered Fripp at DGMlive). But it had passed me by that there might be more TM shows taking place. The TM show I saw a couple of years ago was a real highlight of that year.

A few things could be said to be now growing at the allotment. I have cleared out the old cold frames and a substantial collection of seeds of various sorts are settled in place - together with one or two packs of grown-on stuff acquired at Millets as a bit of insurance. I am suffering from the two classic forms of allotment stress - will I get enough ground clear to grow things in and, if I do, will anything grow. This will continue until the allotment looks lush in July, if not for longer

Seeds and some small plants in the cold frames

Strawberries going in to the newly-cleared raised bed

Some fence posts marking my new border and suggested pathway. Fencing always takes such a long time but is surprisingly satisfying work

Trip to London - Saturday at LSE

A day down in London for the three of us. Linda and Emma spent the day at the "Vitality Show" at Earl's Court, while I had a day at LSE working.

The difference between working at home and at LSE is something that I have been pondering on - the answer is relevant to my revision programme. Over the past term, I have often found that I have had some very good brainstorming sessions while working in the LSE library - days when I have written down several sides of ideas for development. I don't seem to be able to produce the same flood of ideas at home.

And I can still have music on at LSE (what an innovation since I was last here in the 1980s). Indeed just about everyone seems to have headphones on, either listening to music or watching things on their laptops - indeed just about everyone seems to have a laptop.

On the other hand, I can't have a drink or snacks out on my desk. Again most people seem to have drink and food hidden in their bags.

Once again I was surprised by how full the library was, given that it was a Saturday during the holidays. Most of the students were oriental, which is possibly the answer, conforming to the stereotype of the hard working Chinese. Indeed the percentage of students that are Chinese seems to be much higher than when I was here before. There were sufficient numbers of Chinese students to vote down a recent student union motion condemning China's activities in Tibet -that certainly wouldn't have happened in my day either

I mainly worked on dissertation related stuff - though I am close to deciding to not submit this in the current academic year. In fact the more I think about what to do going forward, the harder the decision becomes on a number of things. I may even defer year 2 altogether, though this depends on other work related matters.

By mid afternoon I have had enough. Time for a wander round the book shops of Charing Cross road - what few are left, Murder One having recently shut. Then caught a bus back to Earl's Court to meet Linda and Emma, who seem to have had a good time

A slightly odd day overall for me - lots to think about. Not got done perhaps as much as I might have

The Boat Race and Allotment clearance

Emma has travelled to London to see her boyfriend race in the reserves race in the Boat Race. Next year he hopes to be in the main race. What is it about Emma and rowers? Sadly Code's boat lost, but they are still going partying tonight.

Meanwhile, I am beginning the major work that is allotment clearance. I have to cut everything down to ground level and burn the huge amount of material produced, then create a new fence and only then begin the job of digging and weeding out strips for my proposed crops.

Five hours of back breaking work today and some progress perhaps

Looking down the allotment at the area cleared, including the two huge bonfires created. At some point a fence will be located where the peg is in the ground all the way down to the next plot in the distance

Looking up the allotment - what the other bit looked like when I started today. Heavy-duty brush cutter at the ready. My allotment really did look a mess up to now. Rumour has it that if we don't do some good work this year, we could lose our plots - apparently there is now a waiting list for plots so the rules are toughening up

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Start of PH404 "Revision"

This week is dedicated to PH404 - always likely to have been my favorite element of the course this year and so a nice week of work. I have sketched out some recent exam questions that I would have been expected to do from and outlined some sort of possible answer for each. Then the starting text for my actual revision notes is based on a rough reading of one of the many textbooks I looked at over the year. So far, outlines of points on Kepler, Tycho and Newton have been prepared.

I can't believe it has really been 8 months since I was in Italy and started doing some reading for my course - The Cambridge Companion to Galileo.

The most surprising thing has been that prior to the course I would have said that on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the knowledge of a professor of history of science like, say, John Milton, then I would have said that I was a 7 due to my lifelong reading on the subject. But now I perhaps think of myself as having been a 3/10.

One recent book that has attracted a lot of attention was called something like Outliers. It concerned those who have achieved great things in various fields and was meant to illustrate the thesis that to become really expert in something requires about 10,000 hours of work - three or four years of full time study. I have realised that I don't have the hours and so am not good enough - or as good as I thought

And this links in with the thoughts I have had of doing a PhD. I have been surprised to discovery that these now take around 4 years on average and that PhD students work at them very much like you would in a full time job. 50 hours a week for 48 weeks a year for 4 years = 9,600 hours. I don't know if I do have what it takes to do a PhD.

I have returned to this theme on many occasions during the course with no clear resolution.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Last day of LSE teaching

It is amazing how fast time has flown by on my course - exactly as several people said it would. Can this really be the last day of teaching for this year? True, there are one or two lectures still outstanding on PH400 due to the school being closed for snow. But I haven't been going to those this term. Moreover, the feedback on these lectures has not been good.

So today it is our last "seminar" with John Milton on history of science and the topic is mechanics from Descartes to Newton. This is rather rushed to fit in the one period but, as usual, is full of interesting stuff even if the format is not the seminar we had thought it would be. I have a theory thay John has been teaching this course for so long that the idea of doing a seminar in it fills him with dread. He has heard every naive question that students ask and rather than go through the motions of listening to this year's students raise the same points as last year, he has sidestepped this by going straight on to the answers!

One disappointment afterwards is that no one fancies going for lunch together. As this is my last day, I had rather hoped we could have all had a chat together. Instead people have things to do. For instance Victor is off to the Warburg Institute where he has acquired a library ticket and where the books on History of Science are apparently superb. Caroline is off to the library. Leonardo didn't attend the seminar. And of course Anne Marie has decided to switch to being a part time student and is going to take this class next year so she wasn't here either - maybe I will see her again next year?

So rather a sad end to the term really. And if things don't work out well on other fronts, this might be the end of the course for me too. A very sad thought

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

After a little absence . . . .

It has been a couple of weeks since I have written anything here. So a little catch up is in order.

I have made my final presentation to the writing seminar with an update on my proposed dissertation. My presentation was well-planned and thoughtful. Some of the others were trully dreadful - quite disgracefully bad in my view!

We have collected Emma from Cambridge for the easter vacation. It is clear that she would have preferred to have stayed on this vacation (boyfriend related we suspect) and she is already suggesting she might go back early. However her plans for the few weeks are very much up in the air, so who knows what will come out

And straight away E and Linda are away for three days at an aerobics weekend on the south coast. So I have time to do a little work on the allotment, and a very small amount of MSc work. But it would be fair to say that the brief flurry of activity connected with a possible PhD application has resulted in a new wave of depression hitting - so from Monday to Wednesday little academic work was done.

But I did enjoy two days of work on the allotment instead!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Thoughts on doing a PhD

Re-reading the Oxford University PhD prospectus, I was surprised to discover that I hadn't actually missed the deadline to apply for a start this autumn. So today was spent examining the forms in detail, sketching out possible answers and so on.

This has arisen out of the latest deliberations related to working again. At a pinch, it is not really necessary for me to work again, but there are arguments for doing so, the main one of which is that it would mean that the "at a pinch" would be replaced with something more comfortable. I had looked at various interim positions, then at some full time ones I could perhaps do for 18 months or so. However the economic situation is not helping and there is a good chance that I am caught in a poor period to execute this plan.

So this has raised the option of changing track and doing the PhD earlier, then looking for something afterwards. This is not a great plan by any means, and the chances of being able to do an application in just a few days are not good. Indeed, the tentative conclusion of today's work, is that it won't be possible toapply this week. More thought is need (afterall it took me several weeks to do my MSc application)

So probably a wasted day in the end

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Gone fishing . . . . .

The weather has been pretty poor for the last few weeks as far as fishing is concerned - indeed ,I have heard from a few sources that this seems to be a national problem. But the season is coming to an end and so I have to go regardless of conditions.

After two or three slightly better days, there is then a big rainfall. I had thought that I might be able to get a trip in before the river rose too much but this turned out not to be the case. Maybe up two foot when I arrived it rose another foot in the next five or six hours.

Hopeless conditions are chub fishing of course - I should really have gone barbel fishing on the Windrush instead. But it was not unpleasant out and I did see a decent amount of wildlife - some deer, a fox, etc.

The Evenlode stretch that I have been concentrating on for chub has really changed over the last few years. This is especially true of the deep bend where I have had many of my best fish. The raft at the top has gone completely and the tree at the bottom has collapsed into the river diverting the flow sharply. Hard to tell with the river so high, but maybe this will have spolit this little bit of the river.

So six hours out with not even the slightest possibility of a fish!

The flooded deep bend swim - usually I fish out where the last line of reeds is visible

Once or twice I have had some decent fish by the tree on the near bank - not today though!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Reading Shapin - thinking of fishing

Most current MSc work remains reading Shapin's The Scientific Revolution as part of my dissertation. But the last couple of weeks have been very poor from the point of view of work. Not really getting anywhere near as much done as I had thought I might have done.

There was a short article in the Guardian recently discussing the "agonies" involved in the act of writing. Of course the people interviewed were all fiction writers, but many of the points raised would probably apply to just about any sort of writing I would think. I certainly recognised many of the problems that I am having at the moment.

So my thoughts have turned a little towards fishing, with the season not having long to go. The weather hasn't been great for river fishing lately, with snow, frosts and then heavy rain. So the rivers are still quite high. From what I can tell on fishing websites and in the magazines, this is proving a problem for most fishermen at the moment.

But at least I have sorted out the fishing tackle and put a kit together aimed at chubbing on the Evenlode.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Visit from Jerome and Co

Out of the blue somewhat, our friend Jerome got in touch to say that he was looking after his kids this weekend and could he come for a visit. I haven't see him for 18 months or so since we saw a Blonde Redhead concert together in London, Linda wasn't seen him for over two years, since he visited us for a weekend with Jenny, his then partner and mother of his two kids.

Jerome duly arrived in his new motorhome - a four person, state of the art affair that is exactly like the ones I looked at a year or so ago. I couldn't resist asking him if he hires it out when he's not using it but he was adament that we could simply borrow it if we wanted. Suddenly the tentative plans for Linda and I to visit Scotland in the summer have taken an interesting turn.

Jerome was accompanied by Lily, who is now 5 and at junior school and Elijah is is a "terrible two". But in addition, he had brought Rosie, a 5 month old golden retriever puppy. Both Linda and I were agreed about how lovely she was. A week or so ago, when we saw Marley and Me, we had looked at some websites selling huskie and newfoundland puppies. Now we are definitely pondering on getting a dog, maybe in a year or two.

Jerome is still working at Fimat, which he joined when we finally closed Procyon. He seemed to be doing ok, but he did say he was on a final warning after a trading error. However he didn't seemed too fussed by this. I would guess that his new relationship with Caroline (a yoga teacher who he lives with in London) is the main reason for this. He still has many of his idealistic ideas intact - for instance, he is considering retraining as a primary school teacher.

After lunch we went for a walk round the village - I got to walk the dog! A brief stop at the Pub and soon after the two kids are getting tired and grumpy. So he packs everyone up in the motorhome and is off to meet Caroline in Newbury for the night. Jerome is a marvellous parent, really caring to the two kinds even when obviously grumpy and not behaving well. By contrast, both Linda and I feel that this was ok in small doses, but maybe not longer term - what will happen when Emma has kids!!

With much excitement, we have been considering possible dates to borrow the motorhome. I have sketched out to Linda a possible tour of Scotland, making our may up the west coast at least as far as Ullapool (and maybe further north) then down via the Cairngorms (where we should be able to see the Ospreys) and finally to Edinburgh. Our planned dates are the second and third weeks of August - hopefully I can agree these with Jerome and start thinking about booking camp sites.

This is a fantastic opportunity to discover if we enjoy this sort of trip. I am still pondering on whether we might buy our own at some later date

"A Random Blast from the Past"

March 1st 1983

Last night was the final episode of "M.A.S.H" in the USA, a deeply moving end to a wonderful series by all accounts. I can't remember a time when this wasn't on TV. Oh, and Selina Scott accidentally said "shit" on Breakfast TV

I met Paul for lunch and a discussion on our plan for me to stand for General Secretary of the student's union. Our purpose is to obtain some money and stationery. I am planning to stand as the "record attempt at lowest vote polled" candidate.

With Nyssa no longer a character on Doctor Who, I am forced to stay in the library till closing. Hung out in my usual 3C and spent half an hour chatting to Ruth. Bit of reading - mainly Plamentz's on the "English Utilitarians"

(Addendum. I eventually obtained 8 votes in the election which means I failed in my record attempt. But my performance at the hustings and in the school newspaper were very effective. The money and stationery were well used.

A month ago, I downloaded all the Peter Davidson episodes of Doctor Who and have watched one or two featuring Nyssa and Tegan - the only time the Doctor has had two female assistants.

Ruth Thompson was an object of lust throughout my time at LSE. We never made it past friends though. When we did go on a date, I took her to see "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and she hated it! I have no idea what ever happened to Ruth. She took a gap year after LSE and we lost touch)