Showing posts from August, 2009

Big Bangs & Why You Still Shouldn't Buy a House

Following on from why not to buy a house, I can highly recommend Steve Keen's blog at: (Have a look at his graphs showing the debt levels in Australia ovcer the past 100+ years, and you'll see what it is that's been funding those huge hikes in house prices. The houses certainly didn't suddenly become worth 3 to 4 times as much - people weren't wall papering with gold leaf).
Keen has been one of the few sane voices talking about the insanity of our 'economy' over the past 10 years or so. To this day he's despised or ridiculed by most traditional economists, because they don't have the slightest clue where he's coming from. If you have even a passing interest in economics though, and all of us do in a way because it's become a standard item in most news bulletins, and you read Keen's work and others of the same mind, you'll wonder what planet the other economists came from.
There are almost too many …

Why Not to Buy a House

Hmmm, hopefully you can see the detail - click on the graph for a much bigger version. Nigel Stapledon of UNSW (and formerly of Westpac) created this graph, and Steve Keen has created similar graphs. It should raise all of our eyebrows, but alas doesn't.
Here's a fast-track way to be considered a dribbling lunatic in Australia, and probably in many other places too. Don't buy a house.
I once bought a house, and sold it for a variety of reasons not long afterwards. But for the past decade I've refused to do it again. This graph is why, although I didn't know about the numbers until the past year or so. (I'll talk about Australia, but many other countries will have experienced similar trends, for example the US, which shares the graph.) Take a look at what happens to house prices from about 1990 onwards. Cancerous growth. Off-the-scale growth. Growth utterly at odds with the more than 100-year trends preceding it, on the graph. The sort of deviation in a trend tha…


Thanks to!
A while ago I wrote here about the question of 'taste' and what it meant. (I can't be bothered finding the link, if you're actually interested it'll be listed over there ------> somewhere in the archived posts).
The notion of opinion put in an appearance there too. But this is one that I find hugely interesting so I'm revisiting it in a slightly different way.
In my opinion. Just my opinion. That's just your opinion.
These are phrases that make the hairs go up on the back of my neck, like somebody is running their fingernails down a blackboard. There are a few ways they drive me nuts. Firstly they're always said by people who think they're actually being decent and saying common sense, calm and rational things. Who could argue that these are some of the fairest and most decent things you could say in a conversation? (Well I will, in a minute.) Secondly they're almost always used very early on in discussions these days, bef…

Que Sera Sera

Doris Day. Made singing sound easy, but that's for another day.
It's interesting how many philosophies and religions, or at least the best ones, end up with the same golden rule at the end of the day. Something along the lines of things are fine just as they are, just be yourself, be in the present, que sera sera, etc. It all comes back to a faith in the world itself as being fine just the way it is.
These traditions suffer at the hands of some feeble-minded critics who either say people like this are fatalistic and believe in fate or destiny, or that they're Panglossian and miss the fact that everything certainly isn't right with the world, and how could they possibly say it is? DH Lawrence put his finger right on the misunderstanding when he said (paraphrasing here) that the true life is one where you get to truly know yourself, but this is also the hardest life to lead. So yes, be yourself and let things be, but be prepared for this to be a difficult thing to do.

The Everyday (Part 2)

Finally getting back to the idea of the 'everyday' (see a few posts ago for part 1).
Some ancient Greek philosophers made the point that we often use metaphors of depth and height when describing life and knowledge. So we say that profound knowledge is 'deep', or that we want to take a 'higher level' view of something. By contrast these philosophers said that all life takes place at the 'surface' of things, which you could interpret as being sort of half way between the depths and the heights, except they also went on to say that depth and height are merely effects rather than things in themselves. Like big and small, depth and height are entirely relative terms, they aren't absolutes -I might hire a hot air balloon and observe you from a few hundred metres up, and be higher than you, but I'm still a helluva lot lower than the view from the moon. And once you expand the viewpoint out to the universe itself, how could you ever define high and low …

League Tables, Schools and Sneaky Ways of Doing Politics

I watched our federal education minister on a talk show last night, defending the government's plans to introduce 'performance data' reports for parents that will allow them to compare like schools.
Having once worked in schools the idea has always appalled me. The same people who agitate for such things see education in perpetual crisis (I'm not sure it is), and at the same time vote for governments who gleefully cut more and more money out of schools. And then turn around and blame the schools and particularly the teachers when the whole thing starts to smell like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe.
However over time my view on this sort of thing has changed a little. Firstly I think most of the arguments trotted out against this sort of data miss the main point. It's nearly always about the data not properly representing the schools and the teachers in them, allowing simplistic judgements to be made that miss all the rich context of what's going on. But that&#…

Dear Glenn, What's a Ponzi Scheme?

From today's Sydney Morning Herald, a quote from our Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens:

For a country of our size … and the population we have, it still strikes me a little bit hard to explain why the price of dwellings are at the upper end of what you see internationally.

Dear dear. How many times now have we heard the odd wise head pop up and ask why the same clowns who didn't see the global financial meltdown happen, such as central bank governors, are now being trusted for advice on where to go from here? There's no evidence any of them have changed any of the obviously useless intellectual equipment (theories, models) which left them totally blind to all of this only a year or so ago.

These bozos will now no doubt talk about boosting supply of housing to drive prices back below non-biblical levels. That's exactly what they said when the housing boom was underway as well, that the reason prices were exploding was because there was a lack of supply of housing, so ev…

Awareness again

Been away, normal service resumes.
I had two follow-on posts to do, one about the everyday and one about awareness. Awareness first.
If you tried that experiment, you might have noticed interesting things. To recap, if (for example) you're feeling cold, is your awareness of being cold itself cold? Or can you be aware of thinking about something, and is that awareness of thinking itself an act of thinking? Or can you be aware of your entire body in space, and is that awareness 'in' your body?
After a few trials with this you should notice that the answer for all of these is no. Your awareness of cold is not itself cold, your awareness of thinking is not an act of thinking, and your awareness of your body in general is not 'in' your body. The same applies for any act of awareness. This is the key I mentioned last time to something that is life-changingly extraordinary (well I think so, you can judge for yourself). And it's one of those things that sits right under …

Here's to a Flat Earth. Beware. Be-Aware.

(I borrowed this appropriate picture from this site.)
Hmmm, I had promised to follow up on the previous post, but that'll be the next post.
The Earth is flat. Bear with me, this isn't what you might think. My house is built on a flat piece of ground, and I'd be watching things roll off the table and caling a lawyer if it wasn't. At which point I hear some of you say "oh sure, it's flat here and there, but as a whole it's round." But then isn't the Earth round and flat? It depends where you look. The (as it turns out largely mythical) Flat-Earthers may have incorrectly extrapolated an experience, but that experience in itself was absolutely correct. The Earth is flat, at certain scales - again it depends where you look.
In the 16th century Copernicus helped to change the way most of us think about space, in the bigger sense of the place of the Earth in space. Before his time the cosmos was thought by many to revolve around the Earth as a centre, so th…

The Everyday

The bigger your blog gets, the harder it gets to remember if you've written about something before. What saves you is nobody reading it anyway, so nobody complains.
Everyday life is an interesting thing. Not that two lives are the same, Posh and Beck's everyday lives are fairly removed from mine. But even then most people have a part of their life which could be described as 'ordinary'. Doing the shopping, taking the kids to and from school, watching TV, cooking dinner, a bit of gardening or reading, conversations with friends and neighbours etc.
I'm a huge fan of the ordinary. For similar reasons that I'm not a huge fan of travel, which was the subject of a previous post. There is a groundedness to ordinary, everyday life which is much more sophisticated than seems to be realised. It's not uncommon for the ordinary to be considered boring. A bourgeois substitute for real living, where real living is lots of drinking, gymnastic sex, travelling, partying, ext…

Religion. Freddie Flintoff. Creation Science. Presence.

Saint Freddie?
Religion. Where to start?
To the alarm of modernists, religion seems to be experiencing a bit of a surge in popularity. All the usual scientific and sociological explanations get trotted out to explain this, usually something about dark times driving people back to the irrationality of faith etc.
I'm not sure we're looking at this the right way. There's an assumption, actively encouraged by those on both sides (if we loosely group the protagonists into science and religion camps), that science and religion are both trying to do the same thing. They're both trying to describe and adjudicate upon reality. Still the old Galileo scenography.
For me this is a tale of two straw men. And I don't come down on either 'side' because they both actually agree on just about everything, and hardly at all with me. I think the science camp are as misguided about science as they are about religion, and vice versa. Everyone seems to be clamouring for the right to…

Power to the People

Conservatives in Western politics have been playing the same tune for a lot of years now. At a time when the dreaded socialists the world over have been forced to reinvent themselves many times over in the past 100 years, for better or worse as the case may be, the conservatives keep dusting off the same old pipe band and hitting the streets.

It occurred to me maybe in my 30s that at root I'm quite a conservative person. But that what that term had come to mean because of its use politically i.e. moralistic wowser, beat up the unions etc. didn't at all describe my own conservatism. To me being conservative means recognising that most of the times there's no need to fiddle with things or to try to impose control on them, because you'll mostly just muck things up. You'll be a busybody, in every sense of that word.

BUT on the other hand I would run a mile from the extension on that put by most conservatives today that this means that the world should be run as a sort of…