Saturday, March 31, 2012

I put off writing the magazine article - the past week at work

Monday

A hot and uncomfortable night so that I was unable to sleep.

So by the time I got to my desk I was already tired and wanted an easy day.

A meeting with Institute Director Vijay Singh to discuss quotes for various items of print.  I am unused to being questioned about what suppliers I use.  He wanted me to put work with a new supplier, but in the end left the decision up to me (I placed the work with the existing printers we use).

Then we chatted for about an hour, unrelated to the Institute's current projects.  He is interested in the tribal system in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan.  He goes to the region several times a year.

Very hot day, as if it were summer.

In the afternoon an enquiry from a national newspaper which I parried (we don't really talk to the press).

Later I prepared an article for a specialist magazine, and I will write the first draft tomorrow.

Tuesday

In the morning Abi Reed (Telephone Surveys manager) gave a presentation on her research on the social care system and the broader topic of social services.  It was a useful meeting and she had lots of new statistics.  Campaign Manager Keith Chandler was also at the meeting writing notes furiously.

I put off writing the article I had prepared yesterday.

In the afternoon a meeting with Keith Chandler to discuss a campaign related to social services.  It was very hard work.  I was unsure what he hoped to achieve (other than being seen to do something - he has been criticised by Vijay Singh for not doing very much).

The day ended with a presentation by Deputy Director Lois Cooper on the effectiveness of business organisations - almost everyone in the Institute attended this presentation, crammed into the corner office.  Lois Cooper is very overweight.  She walked up and down continually as she spoke.

The meeting with Keith Chandler stayed in my mind, and at home I continued thinking.  He is someone who has a record of behaving incompetently (and then blaming others for his mistakes).  Just before I went to bed I wrote down five things I need to do to place myself beyond criticism. 

Wednesday

This morning I wrote the campaign plan related to social services.  It did not take too long to produce a first draft.  I was helped by graphs produced by Abi Reed.

All around me the admin team were immersed in a mailshot.  It seemed archaic to do this sort of work in-house rather than use a professional mailing company.  However the admin team has its own internal politics which I have no interest in getting involved in.

Again I put off writing the magazine article although the deadline is approaching.

Vijay Singh told me that he is concerned about the way our "sister organisation" (and paymasters) were stealing too many of our ideas and presenting them as their own work.

Bright moon and Venus very prominent in the night sky.

Thursday

Almost all of the day was taken up by a meeting called by Vijay Singh to discuss the social services campaign.  Keith Chandler had not prepared for this meeting and Vijay Singh demolished his arguments.  Abi Reed was called into the meeting to discuss her research.

Friday

I finally wrote the magazine article.  I seem to do my best work at the absolute last minute.  Perhaps I need the fear of an impending deadline to motivate myself.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Owen Jones, in an article for today's Independent

And still the attempts at class war continue.

Owen Jones, in an article for today's Independent, argues that a small clique of privileged people are running the United Kingdom:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-were-now-governed-by-the-political-wing-of-the-wealthy-7601024.html

He seems unaware of the fact that to the average person in a queue in a Greggs bakery the Oxbridge-educated writer Owen Jones will be a privileged "toff" who doesn't have a proper job.

He also refers to The Sun being a "loyal Tory rag" presumably oblivious to the fact that for about fifteen years it was a loyal Labour rag, and when it changed sides in about 2009 the Labour hierarchy was so enraged we saw on the news a trade union leader ripping up a copy of The Sun in a fit of pique to the cheers of a Labour supporters.

It would have been more convincing to have ripped the newspaper up before it had changed sides.

In any case the support of The Sun is a curse, not a blessing.

Labour lost the Bradford West by-election because of a poor PR stunt

Is it possible that Labour lost the Bradford West by-election because of a poor PR stunt?

A good picture can win an election, but equally a bad picture can lose one.

When I saw the BBC film of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves queueing up in Greggs to buy some working-class stodge for their lunch I knew immediately it looked a fake.

Let's just remind ourselves:  Ed Miliband is "Labour aristocracy" and an Oxbridge graduate; Ed Balls went to a public school and is an Oxbridge graduate; Rachel Reeves is an Oxbridge graduate.  None of them has ever done a real day's work or worried about how they will pay the electricity bill.  This is not to decry their achievement in going to Oxford or their commitment to making the world a better place, but they cannot queue up at Greggs among the lumpen proletariat and expect people to take the image at face value.

Is it possible that the voters of Bradford West saw the "pasty-gate" stunts of recent days and decided that whatever the problems the country faces the answer is not a faux class war led by the Labour party - especially when there was a real class warrior option in the form of George Galloway.

The Greggs photoshoot in my opinion undermined the Labour message by showing the Labour leaders to be trivial and opportunistic.

The best PR is communication founded on logical and compelling arguments that your target audience will find relevant and attractive.  “Knocking copy” seldom works (you might get away with knocking copy once, but you can’t keep on getting away with it).  The advice to Labour must be to work on their policies and let the PR plan flow from strategic messages they want to communicate.














Above:  screenprint of an image that appeared on the Daily Mirror website.  It looks staged and unconvincing.  Does Rachel Reeves with her Oxbridge degree really read the Daily Mirror?  She is not looking at the newspaper but staring fixedly at the camera.  Why has the photographer chosen such a low angle, which makes the trio loom over the viewer in a way that is unsettling?  Ed Balls is holding the carrier bag in a very odd way, as if he is unused to the experience of shopping.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dishonest debate that is circulating in the media
















Although I come from a working class family (I was born in Weedington Road in Kentish Town and my family lived for generations in Limehouse and Bethnal Green) I have no grudge against "toffs".  I knew David Cameron was a "toff" before I voted Conservative in the last election and despite all the Labour invective against "toffs" I will probably vote for his party next time.  My contempt is reserved for those "socialists" who hide their public school and Oxbridge backgrounds and try to act out being a class they are not.

My view is:  better the toffs you know than the ones you don't.

There was a ridiculous debate on Newsnight yesterday focussing on whether David Cameron knew the price of a Cornish pastie in Greggs.  Despite my working class origins I did not know the price of a Cornish pastie in Greggs until I bought one earlier today.  The cost was £1-40 (and it was lukewarm).

In any case I thought fattening foods like Greggs pastries were going to be taxed more to tackle the obesity epidemic?





















Another dishonest debate that is circulating in the media is the fuel tanker drivers' threatened strike.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/27/tanker-driver-strike-responsible-standards

How is it possible for agency staff to undercut existing drivers by £9,000?  Presumably the agencies are using migrants from Poland.  And yet this is not reported in the media or challenged by the Unite union - the union's ideological myopia will prevent them challenging migration, no matter what damage it does to their members' true interests.

Which is why the union leaders are part of the problem.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sicily Land of the Leopard Princes














Currently I am reading Sicily Land of the Leopard Princes - photographs by Jean-Bernard Naudin and text by Gerard Gefen.  The book illustrates the lifestyles of the Sicilian aristocracy from the mid-19th century to about 1920, and is meant as an unofficial companion to The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  Lavish colour photographs take up about eighty per cent of the book, with sections of prose and quotations from various memoirs.

I read The Leopard in 2000, and Roberto's The Viceroys shortly afterwards, and then on impulse purchased this book.  Coddled in shrink-wrap plastic the book remained in pristine condition for over eleven years on a table in my bedroom, about two hundred other unread books piled on top of it.  Eventually I worked my way down to it after numerous digressions and diversions.

Not sure why I find this class of wastrel Sicilian fops so attractive (perhaps it is the unconscious influence of Visconti).  Malthus argued that society needs a class of unproductive consumers to solve the problem of non-distribution.  Are belle epoque Sicilian aristocrats better in this role than twenty-first century bonus-acquiring hedge-fund managers?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Elected MPs have usurped power

The cash-for-access scandal continues, with former Home Secretary Jack Straw on the Today programme this morning making a very leaden attempt to score points.

None of the political parties has fully grasped the seriousness of the situation, which is likely to blow up in a similar way to the expenses scandal.

The political parties are reliant on "big money" because their membership base has collapsed (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12934148).  Their membership base has collapsed because the elected MPs have usurped power from local constituency party members and become completely disconnected from the people they are supposed to be representing.  Why be a member of a political party when you have absolutely no control over developing policy, ensuring election commitments are fulfilled, or recalling (and dismissing) errant MPs?

By limiting political donations to a maximum of £20 or £30 per party member the political parties will HAVE to build a wide party membership or cease to exist (and their place taken by new parties that are willing to be governed by their members).

I am also not happy about the role played by advertising in deciding elections (and this includes social media - we currently have a plague of asinine 140 character statements by our elected representatives, who presumably think they are "communicating" by means of this twaddle).

By taking "big money" out of politics and limiting their power to advertise the politicians will be obliged to communicate by calling on their constituents one by one and talking to them.  And not just at election time, but on an on-going basis.  If we can ally this to the removal of the Murdoch influence then democracy should be re-established and re-affirmed (rather than the present self-perpetuating all-party oligarchy).

An analogy can be seen in the music industry.  At one stage all music was live performance and the performers were directly connected to their audience (who would boo or clap or demand their money back).  Then recording technology intervened and "captured" the process of making music and "big money" usurped decisions on what music got selected and promoted.  Performers became disconnected from their audiences - to such an extent that there were periodic rebellions.  Then technology changed again, and music become more or less free of big money control.  Performers were forced to go out on the road to reconnect with their audiences.

Eighty years ago politicians had to connect with their constituents by canvassing and big public meetings.  Then communications technology made them think they could mostly just sit back and win elections through advertising and PR.  Now they must go back on the road and reconnect.

Monday, March 26, 2012

They imagine society as a continuous stream

I have been thinking a lot recently about society and how politics relates to it.

Some random thoughts:


In the minds of most people is a "myth" of a social continuum (although Jung thought it was more than a myth) in which society stretches back into the past and forward into the future.  This social continuum is where most people mentally "live".  They may have a shadowy idea of the past, they may have a tenuous idea of the future, but they imagine society as a continuous stream in which they and their families are located.

This social stream is an impersonal force which tends to include conformists, and exclude non-conformists.

On the whole the Conservative party emphasises continuity and conformity (social cohesian although it can also be seen as social repression) and Labour emphasises a process of renewal and safeguards for non-conformists (social inclusion although it can also be seen as social disintegration).

Conservatives broadly want society to go on the way it is, Labour broadly wants to stop and start again.
On the Today programme this morning actress Fiona Shaw read what she described as the greatest love poem of all time, at the end of which presenter Evan Davis said "very nice".

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Although not in the same league as the Lord Levy shenanigans, the cash-for-access scandal revealed earlier today must make more compelling the need for strict scrutiny of the funding of political parties.

Just as democracy is founded on one equal vote per person, so political funding must be based on one equal donation per party member.

Only members of political parties should be allowed to donate to party funds, and it should be capped at £20 or £30 (and no state funding and trade union bloc financing).

That will make politicians work harder at getting members and make them much more accountable to those members.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

He gave a long lecture - the past week at work

Monday

The Institute's offices comprise two floors. 

On the ground floor is the telephone surveys room (not large) and a tiny office with three glass walls for Development & Innovation manager Tim Watts.  The rest of the ground floor is occupied by the "Library" alternatively known as the "Reading Room".  Entry is via a metal door into a musty-smelling windowless area crammed with metal shelving packed with journals, articles and unpublished manuscripts.  Also thousands of books.  An equal number of books are still in cartons stacked at the back.  When the Institute moved from London the old Library had been packed up in a haphazard manner and never fully unpacked (mainly because there is not enough room in the new premises). 

The Library is run by three staff, nominally reporting to Institute Director Vijay Singh but with a "dotted line" (on the organisation chart) of responsibility to Alec Nussbaum in the Institute's sister organisation.  This dotted line allows Alec Nussbaum to visit the Institute without seeking Vijay Singh's advance permission.  There have been many arguments and manoeuvrings on how to remove the dotted line and place the Library under sole control of Vijay Singh.

Upstairs you enter the Reception area, comprised of four comfy armchairs and a coffee table overlooked by the Reception desk.  If you turn right you come to the admin area, marketing (where I sit) and the Campaigns Room.  Also the Director's suite (a long room with a board table at one end, two sofas facing each other in the middle, and Vijay Singh's office area at the end).

Opposite side of the floor, behind screens, is the Accounts area, and the Deputy Director's office.

I was only at work during the morning, having the afternoon as holiday.  I got a surprising amount done, briefing Joey on designing a publication, proof-reading, writing a letter.  Vijay Singh away, so there were no meetings.

Tuesday

Holiday.

Wednesday

Holiday in the morning, and I made the mistake of going into the office in the afternoon.

Lots of irritating e-mails from the Institute's sister-organisation - are they planning to take us over?

I did some copywriting, commissioned some photography, and looked through a new database.

Admin supervisor Pat B came to me with the news that she thought admin assistant Angela was anorexic.  What am I supposed to do? (even supposing her analysis is correct).  I told her to go to Deputy Director Lois Cooper.

Thursday

During the morning the admin section (adjacent to my desk) were carrying out a mailshot, which was quite disruptive.  I proof-read a leaflet and replied to e-mails.  Then worked on a presentation.

Everyone asked to stay late, and crammed into Vijay Singh's office.  He gave a long lecture on how the Institute is going to develop over the next few months.  He covered the white board on the wall with intricate flow patterns.

Friday

Barely time to establish myself at my desk this morning than the arrival of PK, editor of the magazine published by our sister organisation.  I was given the task of looking after her, which was a demanding experience.  Lunch in Vijay Singh's office - vegetarian sandwiches bought at Tescos by Pat B.

I got the impression that PK was just visiting the Institute to get a day out of her office.

Friday, March 23, 2012

More scandalous revelations about A4E on yesterday's Newsnight (stopped me switching over to Question Time).

But the point is continually missed that A4E was a New Labour creation.  It is not possible to understand that organisation and how it got such a hold on government contracts (and the imaginations of civil servants within the old Department of Employment) without seeing it in the context of an instrument of New Labour policy.  Yes, David Cameron gave a role to A4E founder Emma Harrison, but this would have presumably have been on the recommendation of civil servants.

The rot set in back in 1991/92 when Tony Blair was Shadow Employment Secretary and developed the policy ideas that Emma Harrison latched onto.

Owen Jones had become confused

Andrew Neil entirely demolished Owen Jones on This Week last night.

Owen Jones had become confused over whether assets worth £1 million were the same as income worth £1 million.

Having made the point Andrew Neil could have restrained himself, but the prey-instinct was too strong and he lunged forward again and again.

Owen Jones is a difficult commentator to categorise.  He has done a lot of valuable work in analysing and defending a section of society that cannot defend itself.  However he continually interprets his work through the prism of ideology, which tends to undermine his arguments (instead of letting the facts speak for themselves).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What the Budget might mean



















The Budget was held yesterday in which the Chancellor laid before Parliament the government's tax and spend programme.

Since yesterday there has been an enormous amount of comment about what the Budget might mean for various demographic groups in the United Kingdom.

Which makes me ask:  what group is most influential politically (by which I mean will take political decisions as a result of this and succeeding budgets until the election).

On the whole I think the most influential group is the one where spending is more or less equal to expenditure.  These are households which are just managing to survive the current economic situation.  They may not be able to pay off their credit cards but they can meet the monthly payments.  They may not be able to pay off the capital on their mortgage but they can pay the interest.  They may not be able to go abroad this year, but they can manage a short break in the United Kingdom.  They grumble about rising prices but by making modest economies they can afford most (reasonable) things their lifestyle requires.

This just-getting-by demographic is huge.  At the moment they are worried about the future but also congratulating themselves that they are surviving.  If the Chancellor can bring this demographic safely through to 2015 and beyond without any upset they will probably reward his party with their votes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mothering Sunday or Mothers' Day

Today is Mothering Sunday or Mothers' Day. 

Professor Ronald Hutton described how a religious event during Lent has transmuted into a festival celebrating the modern cult of the family.  The Book of Common Prayer prescribes the Jerusalem Mater Omnium epistle for this day.  Ritual foods include a plain simnel cake, pork stuffed with bay leaves and peas ("Carlings") cooked in butter.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Everyone was relieved when the taxi arrived

Monday

In the morning I wrote a press release and then chased progress of a brochure.

It always surprises me when something I have written has a measurable effect on the behaviour of people.  It is as if I have a power I do not properly understand.  To me it is just writing.

In the afternoon the Institute's Director, Vijay Singh, carried out a surprise review of all purchasing decisions I have made since joining the organisation.  I suppose he was checking for any illicit activity (supplier favouritism,  lack of competitive quotes, hints of kickbacks etc).  He found nothing.

Tuesday

At my desk I was silently appalled at the magnitude of some of the projects I have been given.  The Institute certainly does not lack ambition. I sent some sharply-worded e-mails to various people complaining about the delays they are causing.

Late morning a meeting with Vijay Singh and Deputy Director Lois Cooper, going through a new policy process line by line.

In the afternoon I was asked into a meeting with Vijay Singh and Campaign Manager Keith Chandler.  Everyone complains about the number of meetings we have to endure, but progress is not really possible without them.  Keith Chandler was very defensive throughout this meeting and just agreed to whatever Vijay Singh said.

Wednesday

The morning spent preparing a new leaflet - writing the copy and sourcing the illustrations.

In the afternoon a review with Vijay Singh of communications.  I was as critical of Keith Chandler as I felt I could be without sounding as if I were playing office politics.  Vijay Singh's chubby face appeared quietly satisfied, as if I were giving him ammunition he intended to use.

Almost all the afternoon spent fruitlessly searching for the "right" photograph for a brochure.

The working day ended with a discussion with Vijay Singh about the visit of the Media Relations team from our "sister organisation" - he was contemptuous about them and said they could offer us nothing, but we would have to tolerate their interventions.

Thursday

I found myself becoming annoyed this morning, mainly because I have so much to do and have to rely on people who are either lazy or obstructive.

As I suspected, a photograph the Institute had commissioned proved to be totally unusable.  I had to ask the photographer to do it again.  More delays.

The Media Relations deputation arrived - two people.  I arranged tea for them which we had sitting on the easy chairs in the Reception area, and then gave them a guided tour of the building.  In the ground floor Library assistant librarian Matthew showed us round while assistant librarian Gary said "yeah, yeah" at meaningless intervals. 

Then into a meeting with Vijay Singh in which the two Media Relations people gave us the benefit of their advice for an hour and a half.

I think everyone was relieved when the taxi arrived to take them back to the station.

Friday

Arriving at my desk I scanned in lots of paper that is related to a new project.  Creating electronic versions somehow seemed to tame the information and made it easier to organise.  Using the scanner also seemed to be mildly therapeutic.

Late afternoon I interviewed an "opinion former" (he came into the office, which was a rare concession given our incognito status). 

Bridget O'Farrell's last day before going off on maternity leave.  I talked to her about her early life in Sligo and how poor her family had been.  She produced a tray of cream cakes to give to everyone, and was given a card signed by all of us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rainforest

Apparently there is a Brazilian law that requires all rainforest purchased privately must be cleared.

This means that no rainforest can be purchased for conservation.

Surely this cannot be the policy of the current Brazilian government?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Surely Gary Younge should have covered for the Guardian the Cameron visit to the Obama White House?

Or does Gary Younge only do highly-selective "reporting" that illustrates a particular viewpoint?

His silence seems very odd considering his enthusiasm for all things Obama.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Serious domestic political and economic analysis and interpretation is missing

Rather fatuous Newsnight yesterday, making economic predictions for the next fifty years.

As economic predictions over the next fifty days are often wildly inaccurate, the prospect of a fifty-year prediction is ridiculous.

Perhaps they just wanted to be sensationalist and frighten the gullible with nonsense scenarios.

For instance, would anyone in 1962 have been able to predict how 2012 would turn out?

Since the departure of Stephanie Flanders and Nick Robinson Newsnight has struggled to re-establish its credibility in political and economic analysis.  The reporting and interviewing is fine.  Science coverage is excellent.  Foreign affairs excellent.  Occasional studio debates usually good.  And the quirky Stephen Smith items work more often than they fall flat.

But the serious domestic political and economic analysis and interpretation is missing.

Yesterday I switched it off at 10.40pm, which I have rarely done before.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I read at the weekend that the United Kingdom is the fourth largest foreign investor in Brazil.  

That seems to put Argentine claims about Latin American solidarity over the Falkland Islands into perspective.

Whatever soothing comments the Brazilian politicians make to their southern neighbours they are not likely to upset their fourth largest source of foreign investment.

Also it is not clear how Argentina is going to afford an expensive military adventure when they cannot afford to pay their American creditors following the financial collapse of 2001 (unless they plan to "buy" the military hardware and then default on the payments).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cross In Hand














Recently I was in the Royal Exchange and wandered out the back door into that little alley between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street.  While I idly waited I looked up and saw above one of the doors a cross formed by four hands.  And in a Lake Isle of Innisfree moment I was transported (imaginatively) to Dorset and the scenes when Tess of the D'Urbervilles visits the Cross In Hand pillar.








This pillar is a real feature of the landscape and is described here:  http://people.bath.ac.uk/lismd/dorset/churches/batcombe.html 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Setting up systems - the past week at work

Monday

For some reason I couldn't sleep and just lay in bed conscious of the passing hours.  Eventually I must have dozed.  Then at 7am I got up, as tired as when I went to bed.

As soon as I arrived I was in a meeting with graphic designer Joey who had driven up from south London to take a brief, even though I had been prepared to brief him via e-mail.  He seemed painfully eager to please, so perhaps work is short at the moment.  He had news of Kate who I used to work with, also squabbling between Alan and Ian.

I updated my list of things to do, which is immense - although somehow things manage to stay on course.

A lot of the projects I am working on entail setting up systems, which is why they are so time-consuming.

Tuesday

I had allocated the morning to writing a report, although incoming e-mails distracted me.

Joey arrived with a rough design.  It was four pages too short and when I pointed this out he over-reacted in blaming himself and gulping with nervousness.  I'm not sure what made him behave like this as I was not complaining in any way, just pointing out the error.

In the afternoon a meeting with the Institute's Director Vijay Singh.  To my surprise this went well.  Afterwards all the staff (eighteen of us) went to a local hotel to mark Vijay Singh's birthday - we stood awkwardly in the gloomy Victorian bar, the only people in the place.

Wednesday

Most of the day spent on policy development. 

Thursday

The brochure Joey has been working on is now at proof stage.  Former secretary Judith breezed insolently through the offices.  In the afternoon I raised purchase orders.

A big directory project is looming, and I keep putting off the planning stage.

Friday

In the morning I wrote the text of a new brochure.  In the afternoon I wrote an article for a magazine.  A meeting with Finance Manager Marcia Walsh to discuss various reports I want the system to generate.

In the dull period at the end of the working day I researched buying a new car.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Watching Question Time yesterday you would think that left-wing firebrand Will Self, with his cor blimey accent, was from a working class council house secondary modern background.

But on Wikipedia his biography is listed as comfortable family wealth, public school and Oxbridge.

The man is a fraud and a closet toff.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

What will happen when the Leveson process finally comes to an end?

The Leveson Inquiry proceeds with its business.  Scandal and corruption revealed throughout the British establishment.  It somehow makes the wrongdoing sound even more outrageous to have the facts rolled out in the ponderous dull style of the Inquiry.

But what will happen when the Leveson process finally comes to an end?

The Leveson website says:  "What will happen after the report? How will the findings be used? It will be for the Government to decide how to take forward the recommendations in the report."

Which makes me suspect it will all be brushed under the carpet.
 
Heads must roll.
 
In particular Rupert Murdoch's head must roll.
 
It is obvious that foreign ownership of British media means that it is less accountable.
 
We need a law banning ownership of newspapers by non-British people. 
 
If that means losing The Times, The Evening Standard and The Independent it will be a price worth paying.
 
We cannot tolerate the level of corruption that Leveson is revealing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Badenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld




















Have just finished reading Badenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld.  I bought the novel at Jewish Book Week.  Previously I have read The Healer and To The Land Of Reeds.

Badenheim 1939 is about humanity's capacity for self-delusion.  Of always hoping for the best when the evidence all around suggests otherwise.  A panglossian outlook.

Beautifully translated.


Monday, March 05, 2012

Interesting editorial in the Chicago Tribune (based on a report in the New York Times) about assessing teacher accountability.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-teacher-0303-20120303,0,6644359.story

If improved education and skills is the main engine of productivity in mature economies, it is likely that the teaching profession itself is going to come under increasing pressure to achieve "productivity".

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

















I have just finished reading A Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  At 500 pages it is a long novel, and the length put me off reading it for about a year.  However it is so well written, and the story is so compelling that when I began I read it in about a week.

The house in the novel reminded me of Brodsworth Hall in Yorkshire, and I kept looking at the guidebook to Brodsworth, so perfectly did the descriptions match.

The novel has many themes, and in particular is about the power of the mind and the imagination.  It is also a very evocative description of the decline of the gentry families in the years following the Second World War.  Comparable in importance to the 1981 Play for Today Country.
Jonathan Beale (talking to Maxine Mawhinney on BBC News 24) gave an interesting analysis of Barak Obama's speech to AIPAC earlier today.

The speech was full of coded messages.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

"That was heavy going" - the past week at work

Monday

I have been so busy recently that I have not had the time or energy to update this blog.  So I let it languish for a couple of days and found this so liberating that I considered shutting the site down completely.  But after a little thought I decided to keep it going - perhaps to 2014 when it will be ten years old.

I woke a little earlier than usual after only about six hours sleep.  I went round the house collecting up the dry cleaning.  Then I drove to work.

During the morning I had to give a debriefing to Director Vijay Singh about my visit to the "sister organisation" on Friday.  The sharp questions he addressed to me indicated he had already received a report from someone else about the visit.  But on the whole he seemed satisfied by my day at the head office.

Lunchtime entirely taken up with the dry cleaners (parking, walking, waiting etc).

Quite a lot of progress made in the afternoon with various projects.  Nothing spectacular, just steady progress.  A lot of the hold-ups come from waiting for other people to do things.

Tuesday

A meeting in the morning with Development Manager Tim Watts (aged late twenties, short red hair, very pale blue eyes, ponderous and slow but essentially a good person who does not cause trouble). 

Interviews were being today held for two junior posts, with various hopefuls arriving and departing.

A new purchasing policy has been circulated by e-mail and I read through it (Marketing has one of the largest budgets in the Institute).

In the afternoon I worked on a marketing plan for the consultancy services the Institute offers, although I think it is unlikely that the sales targets for this consultancy can be met (it is a very esoteric service).

At the end of the day only Vijay Singh and myself were left in the building.  He stopped by my desk and confided his thoughts about the Institute.  This was so out of character that it surprised me - he usually projects the impression of someone who stands completely alone.

Wednesday

The morning I spent preparing for the review meeting to be held in the afternoon.

At the review meeting I mainly just observed proceedings.  The session consisted of Vijay Singh firing difficult questions at Tim Watts and Deputy Director Lois Cooper.  Their responses were rather shambolic, and Vijay Singh began to bully them into admitting they had failed.

The meeting went on past 6pm and on the stairs going out Lois Cooper said to me "That was heavy going".

Thursday

In the morning I went to the surgery for a routine blood test then drove to work, arriving about 11am.

Vijay Singh is away for two days and I was looking forward to using the time to catch up.  But after yesterday's disastrous review Lois Cooper and Tim Watts wanted me to help them with their Development projects.  This meeting took a large chunk of the day, Telephone Surveys Supervisor Abi Reed also joining us.

The whole afternoon spent replying to e-mails, an exhausting process.

Friday

Interesting morning considering lifestyle profiles for various databases we hold.  I find this sort of analysis fascinating.  "Who are we talking to" is the heading of my report on the subject.

Mid-morning a call from the surgery saying the doctor wanted to see me.  This led to a few hours worrying about my health.  Eventually I rang the surgery back and was fairly reassured, but it was a warning that I cannot neglect my health.

Almost the whole lunchbreak spent queueing at the post office and the bank, and collecting my dry cleaning.  Occasionally I think of Joseph Roth's description about superfluous his life was, and I think it could equally apply to myself.  In the car park I sat in my car reading for fifteen minutes, glad to be away from the babble in the office.

The afternoon spent purchasing various photographic images.