Wandering Thoughts

January 28, 2010

AC/DC

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 5:52 pm
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In secondary school one of my biggest fears was that, one day, the bogans would breed. Watching the fans for tonight’s AC/DC concert thronging through Wellington this afternoon it was clear that fear had been realised.

Although, looking at the aging Metallers – black jeans, balding, beer bellied – and their pale pimply offspring, as they took in the sights of the big city, fathers and sons wearing the same T-Shirts, I figured maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

Which isn’t to say mobs of AC/DC fans are pretty. They’re not. Although, I can’t claim the high ground really. I was one of them once. Camouflaged in a black jersey, in the audience when they played Athletic Park. I think it was the last ever concert allowed there. After the fans rioted through Berhampore musical events where forever banned. Somewhere as a souvenir I still have one of these.

[Update: sometime between 8 and 9pm last night one of the local bogans started cranking AC/DC on their stereo. Fair enough I thought, if you can’t make the concert, make your own. About an hour later, and starting to get annoyed, I wandered outside to see just which bogan it was. Only to discover that the noise was emitting from behind the hills, from the city itself. Suspicious I drove up above the hockey grounds behind Newtown. Sure enough, that wasn’t a bogan with a stereo. What I’d been hearing was the concert ! On the hill behind the hockey grounds there was a small group of fans standing listening. Even in Island Bay it was loud enough to make out what songs they were playing! Have a look on the map.]

[Update two: It strikes me that, with their dopey play-on-words-about-sex lyrics and big guitar chops, AC/DC are a pretty bad band. However, they’re also as good as a bad band could ever possibly be. Which, oddly enough, means they’re still pretty good.]

[Update three: and this morning the city (or my part of it at least) is shrouded in mist, as if the hungover sky had pulled the curtains, so it could have a quiet little lie-in.]

January 27, 2010

Rays

Filed under: Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 5:45 am
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I got my x-ray results yesterday. The bad news is that my hips are damaged. Mechanically damaged as opposed to just inflamed (although the damage is a product of the inflammation). So I guess I get to keep my limp. Though how bad it would be if I ever got the inflammation under control I don’t know. Nor do I know what it means really. The end of any chance of being able to walk long distances again? A problem for surfing? A replacement down the track? Or maybe just an inconvenience should I rid myself of the underlying problem.

The good news on the other hand, is that my spine doesn’t seem to be fusing together at any significant rate yet. This – for all the reasons which spring to mind when you hear the words: spine, fusing, together – is something to celebrate.

January 26, 2010

Quick Thought

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 8:09 pm
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Neo-classical economics exists as a doctrine solely because enough people (some politicians, and the public in particular) don’t pay much heed to doctrinaire neo-classical economists. If they did pay heed, the inequalities, cyclical instability, and unnecessary suffering associated with actually trying to govern inline with the doctrine’s prescriptions would rapidly confine that particular way of thinking to the intellectual dust-bin.

Instead at we get stimulus packages and state supported health care and education, and all sorts of intervention which, despite the dilemmas of collective action, work well enough for certain schools of economists to simultaneously take the credit and demand their dismantling.

January 25, 2010

Vertigo

Filed under: Aortic Valves,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 8:05 pm
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Sometime petty early Sunday morning I rolled over in bed. And I kept rolling: welcome back vertigo.

I’ve had vertigo before. A very few times before surgery and more regularly since. There was week about this time last year when I lolled around walking like I was on the deck of a ship at sea. But yesterday’s encounter was by far the worst. If I lay on my side and didn’t move I felt ok. But if I sat up or, heaven forbid, tried to stand the room swum and made me nauseous real quick.

Jo’s away and I couldn’t even think about driving, so the medevac involved my father coming to collect me and an embarrassing retreat back to my parents’. With a stop on the way to throw up and another one at the after hours medical centre in Lower Hutt.

Today I’m feeling a fair bit better; either because the Stematol is working or the vertigo passing. More than anything else though I really want a break. A year, a few months even, with less pain, no heart worries and no new symptoms to try and work my life around. I know I shouldn’t moan as things could be much, much worse but this evening I’m just a little tired of it all.

January 17, 2010

Burdens Gate

Filed under: Staying Places — terence @ 4:17 pm
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If I remember my history right, Burdens Gate used to be the hop off point for travelers on the old coast road from Wellington to the Wairarapa. Beyond the genteel Days Bay, past the fishing village of Eastbourne and at the beginning of the inhospitable coastal track. It wasn’t easy travel – there were highway men and murderers, fords and slips, and the weather.

These days Burden’s Gate is still a hop off point – for picnickers and day-trippers on summer’s days, for walking or riding round the long-tamed Pencarrow Coast. There’s a cycle rental, an ice-cream stall, and info-boards from the regional council. There’s also a lazy little left point break when the swell is big enough.

It’s been twenty years since I surfed it last. There’s better waves nearby and on the occasional day that the mood, or disease, took me to the end of Eastbourne looking for a gentle wave to longboard I’d aim for Lions Rock, two bays back. But Lions Rock doesn’t break any more. It’s been swallowed by shingle, debris from the 1855 earthquake, washed from the Orongorongo river, and carried by swell after swell into the Harbour. And so, yesterday, eager to surf despite the storm, I drove over there, hopped into my wetsuit in the teeming rain, and paddled a long board out off the point.

Rain squalls fell off the hills, hitting the water and driving stinging spray. Walking back up the beach after a long ride was almost impossible, board kicking and bucking in the wind like a rodeo horse. And the waves were as small as ever. But despite all that it was fun, plucking little lefts out of the stormy sea, and trimming and fading along the sectiony little walls.

And there’s a beauty in ugly weather, the frantic battered water and the harried clouds.

I’m not alone in thinking this. There were 15 other surfers out there yesterday. All of them as eager as me. Grimacing n the stinging spray, unable to talk for the wind, but friendly and smiling. Whether it’s just a need to get a wave, something you do because you grew up doing it, or because you actually find it fun, storm surfing is pretty cool. At the hop off point. At the end of the road. And on the edge of the angry, windy sea.

January 9, 2010

Yes We Canberra?

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 2:16 pm
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Well, all going to plan, Jo and I are moving to Canberra. Me to do a PhD; Jo to work. I’ve still got a couple of administrative hoops to clear before the PhD is 100% confirmed but I’m definitely looking forwards to the chance to study and learn. While at the same time feeling perturbed by the task in front of me.

And, of course, the key uncertainty is health. Or, more specifically, my health, field research and developing countries.

We’ll see how we go…

January 6, 2010

Gray’s Anatomy – a very short review

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 7:13 pm
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[Disclaimer: review written from a hasty, lazy holiday read.]

John Gray, it has been pointed out, has worn quite a few intellectual hats in his day (Classical Liberal, Thatcherite, Classical Conservative, Green Conservative, anti-Globalist, Sceptic of Progress, Progressive Critic of Neo-Conservatism…) so the last thing I expected on opening Gray’s Anatomy, a collection of essays spanning from the 1970’s until today, was coherence.  I was in for a surprise – of sorts.

No doubt it’s partly achieved through the essays selected for re-publication, but there is a thread, a kind of coherence, to the positions taken. Start with Oakeshott (the Conservative English philosopher), and argue that knowledge is partial, humans un-perfectible and ethical schema un-completable. Then point out – persuasively I think – that there’s also a liberalism in Oakeshott: politics as process and conversation; society as civil society. This can be linked to Mill and Classical Liberalism (almost). The un-perfectibility of humans gives you grounds to argue against communism, while limits to knowledge and information (pace Hayek) provide a solid critique of the centrally planned social democracy of 1970s England. And so you can support Thatcher – a bulwark against communism, an anti-planner – up to a point, while still opposing free market and globalist utopias, for the same reason you oppose all utopias ( scepticism of grand ideas).

Environmentalism and conservatism go together well enough. And anyone sceptical of grand ideas and utopian thinking has plenty of reason to be sceptical of neo-conservatism.

As for progress, Mill and Oakeshott (according to Gray at least)  had their doubts and, after the 20th century, Gray’s position that progress, while real enough in science, is incredibly fragile in human ethics, is plausible.

Anatomy certainly has its weaves and bends but as far as trains of thought go Gray’s are coherent enough to at least avoid derailing.

Much less coherent are the passengers on the train – the policy positions Gray takes. State education systems might not work perfectly, but neither are they complete failures. Nor are they, as Mill feared, really tools of indoctrination. And it seems to me that a conservative, of Oakeshott’s ilk, in this day and age would recognise this and that if they did, they’d probably oppose, rather than propose, anything as radical as a voucher scheme for schools. They’d also probably have something similar to say about universal basic incomes, and having the NHS support alternative remedies. There are plenty of times in Anatomy when Gray seems neither conservative nor liberal at all, but simply hair-brained.

He’s also unpersuasive in his critique of progress. Sure it can be reversed, but do we gain anything by banging on, like Gray does, reiterating this point? Is there anything novel in useful in pointing this out.

Still despite these criticisms, Gray’s Anatomy was an interesting read. More or less recommended.

January 2, 2010

Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 3:45 pm
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Informally put:

You can’t please everyone.

Holiday Snapshot

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 9:29 am
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Forget the allegory; the real magic in the Narnia Chronicles is in the travel. A wood of worlds, flight above a newly forming land, escape from the War, journey into the kingdom of the giants. Border lands, subterranean countries. As a child my favourite was the journey to the end of the earth in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The magical islands, the way the sea slowly gave out: shallower, populated by mermen, then shallower still, then ending in a mat of lilies.

Something similar happens to the land out beyond Collingwood: the Kahurangis drop away and, no longer so self-assured, it becomes low and uncertain, criss-crossed by tidal rivers; estuaries alternating with expansive mud-flats.

At Puponga, just before the spine of hills died out completely, we walked over to the west coast, and watched the collapsing sea. Then we drove up to the Farewell Spit visitor centre and looked out across the sandy hook. Although the day was clear the wind was blowing a gale, carrying clouds of sand, pulled off the top of dunes, billowing like smoke, out and beyond the point where the last dune gave way to beach and beach in turn dissolved into the sea.

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