Monday, August 24, 2009

Extracurricular Activity and Creative Output

I've just realised that it's been a while (a long while) since anything has been posted on Modest Thought. The truth is, in the past few months, I have successively: been infuriated by my job, been infuriated by my boss, been lined up for a new job, decided to get a new job, not been offered a new job, had to deal with swine flu (everybody is fine), been lined up for a new job, decided to learn the clarinet, been interviewed for a new job, been offered a new job, been preparing for a new job, been preparing for leaving the old job, passed the theory part of my driving license (don't ask) and completed the reading of a book for the first time in years. This along with family trips and visits has had me rather... distracted.
Whilst the family thing is merely a distraction, everything else has required considerable focus and application which have effectively diverted my creative drive from the purposeless meanderings required to claim an entry in the Encyclopedia of Modest Thought. Whilst this has been an exciting period, it has not been prolific.
Without advocating boredom, a little routine stability may be required for a creative output. This brings us fittingly to the anticipated conclusion: extracurricular activities, as they reduce idle time, divert the fuel needed for creative output.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Travelling on the cheap and other Miami reflections.

We were in Miami for about 10 days and came back on Friday. We Intended to go to New York but the state of our finances kept us within the city’s limits, which was nice in its own way. It’s always more challenging to discover a place on a tight budget that splash your way through a city. I feel that the more money you have to spend the easier it is to bypass life’s real grit. Walking, skateboarding and public transport were our lot most of the time; in the evening my dad would take us on trips with his office car and we’d discover the more glamorous side of Miami, which I can’t say we identified with.
I actually enjoyed Miami as a city. The vegetation is amazing. I thought it was also a place of reflection (as in mirror reflection, not intellectual), everything reflects something else; it makes it difficult to distinguish between the original and the one in the mirror. Going on foot, you always end up in places sensible tourists try avoid. That was nice. Seeing places with less mirrors and more dust; peeping behind the glitz. The architecture is also a joyous chaos of low shacks, skyscrapers, luxurious villas and empty plots of land. Even at the heart of the city (and I don’t mean South Beach), it looks as though it is unfinished.
From a European perspective, Sim City has always had a touch of fakeness about it; with its square angles and large causeways, nothing like the medieval town that lies at the heart of most cities. It makes a lot more sense once you have seen Miami. Even Manhattan is too dense to translate well to Sim City; perhaps I should have visited Brooklyn or Queens.
Amongst the things we tried to do whilst there was to find out about local community gardens (as in vegetable garden). It took a while but we found one; brand new with blogs and all. Jeanette was very excited about it so we went to see it, expecting something amazing. After all it is a very good climate to grow your own food. We took a train and walked a while and finally there it was. On a tiny parcel laid a few raised boxes! So that was it, it was neat and tidy but hardly impressive. I suppose it’s a start. In a way I can see how Miami remains a relatively young city, still hosting a large proportion of first generation migrants, who didn’t make it to the city to “grow their own”.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monetary Easing and the UK Downturn - Brown must bail out the poor!

Monetary easing has begun.
The problem is that it looks unlikely to push pounds into the spender's pockets. Instead, it will provide banks with assets which have dematerialized since the meltdown, rather than increase the amount of money in circulation.
Here is a quick heads-up on monetary easing. PQ=MV (where P is Price, Q is Quantity, M is amount of money available and V is its speed of circulation). A slowdown generates primarily a reduction of V, which the treasury is trying to address by increasing M (so as to keep P, but more importantly Q, constant). The problem with the current situation - and this has already shown when the Bank of England cut down interest rates in order to facilitate lending - is that banks do not lend anymore. Banks are doing what every business that has not gone under is doing right now. They are simply trying to stay afloat. The sad truth is that we cannot really blame them for that. Do you really want to see your bank lending money to a poor Joe about to lose his job?
If monetary easing is to work (and stimulate the economy) in the current situation, the money put in circulation must well, circulate (i.e. it must be spent). The general feeling among consumers is not to spent (clue the past two quarters retail figures and this kind message on the high street). If money is to be provided efficiently, it has to be made available not for those who need the money (i.e. banks, mortgage owners, etc.) but for those who need to spend it (i.e. those with the smallest disposable income).
In short, the only way to see this measure work is to ensure that those who will spend money (because they must; i.e. because they are hungry, because they are cold, etc.), have access to it.
By providing employment to the chronically unemployed - even part time employment - Gordon Brown can ensure that this additional money will find its way into the economy. Ideally, this newly created employment should be in the sector of renewable energy (two birds, one stone, anybody?), but providing additional resources to traditionally state funded sectors that have notoriously failed in the past (NHS, education, etc.) would also benefit from the support of the public opinion (a thing that bank bail outs have failed to do).
The argument is that making this money available to someone slightly better off could be counter-productive as they would create a cushion (saving) in case things really get worse (recession could become depression). Whilst savings are essential in a healthy economy (E=I where E=savings and I=investments), it would not work in the time available. As we have seen, the banks have stopped lending and it will take some time before they start lending again.
Is it time for New Labour to go old-school?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Breaking up and public space - the strange appeal of the movie theatre.

Let's get something straight, I am in a relationship which is well beyond break-up stage. Not that we could never break-up, just that our break-up would be more than a one-off affair; they'd probably be a lot of back and forth.
Whereas for those who have just started going out, it can probably be resolved with a single push. As suggested in Jerry McGuire, a public place is a good way of avoiding a scene. Where better than at the cinema? Picture the scene: a couple walks into the cinema (the breaker and the breakee). Breaker buys two tickets for the chosen movie of the breakee (snacks, drinks, etc.) with plenty of time to spare before the start and keeps conversation to a minimum. Stubs are checked, seats are taken, preferably before the beginning of the "soon, at a movie theatre near you" presentation. Breaker stares at the red curtain, lets the conversation drop and then "listen, [insert breakee's name] ...". Timing is everything and should be assessed in relation to the length of the relationship, as the subsequent conversation must take place: breaker has five minutes to whisper her/his reasons. The presentation starts (remember, talking is still allowed) and breakee has now ten to fifteen minutes to talk / sob his/her way through a half-hearted attempt to salvage what remains of what is obviously a pretty poor relationship (imagine, having to end it at the movies...).
In due course, the movie start, imposing silence over the audience. Breaker to get up and whisper the closure line, leaving breakee to reflect that all is not that bad. "Well, I've got popcorn, a drink and the movie just about to start..."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Strange things that makes me want to curse and swear

For some reason, I tend to swear and curse more on Fridays. I suppose it has to do with the weekend coming and a certain sense of ease coming to me. Yet, I cannot quite explain why I find it so immensely pleasurable to let fly (at things rather than people, I'd like to precise). There is something of the guts in a good curse, something that needs to get out. Which brings me to the point: can you get sick if you don't swear?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Downturn Dilemma - Is it okay to play for the wrong team?

In these times of financial uncertainty and professional insecurity, I've come to involve myself in the company strategic doings more proactively than I have in the past. I used to think that only three kinds of people enhabited this office: those who did things for (i) themselves, those who did things for (ii) the company and those who did things for (iii) the clients. I felt great pride in casting myself as the only representative of the latter (I can't count he-who-wears-all-the-hats, and combines all three with genuine enthusiasm). This state of affair was all fine and well so long as I did not feel the need to do anything for either (i) and (ii), which lasted for a while since (i) had no grand carreer designs and (ii) was doing great, thank you very much.
The past six months have been a little dull for (ii). Not quite Woolworth bad but just enough to feel the pinch through your trousers. The problem is, since (ii) isn't doing so good, there isn't much of (iii) to look after and I find myself putting in long hours for (ii) in the hope that (a) more (iii) will come for me to look after and return to my in-it-for-the-people-white-collar status, but more importantly that (b) (ii) will not do like the rest of them and go tits up in the next six months, which would obviously be detrimental to (i).
And there I am, ploughing away, counting money rather than smiles because if it ain't coming in today, well, it won't be coming in tomorrow and I ask myself where did it all go wrong? Was I wrong to think that I could be a Zidane, playing for Bolton and never get stuck in (the cherub among coal miners)? "What I do, I do for the people". Yeah, right. Hang around the coal miners for too long and, chances are you're going to get dirty (no offence, we've never met).
The point is that all along I must have been (was) in it for (i) and that depressing truth is slowly creeping in. Time for a change?