Oh how true this is!

See Metric Mania in the New York Times May 16, 2010.

In the realm of public policy, we live in an age of numbers. To hold teachers accountable, we examine their students’ test scores. To improve medical care, we quantify the effectiveness of different treatments. There is much to be said for such efforts, which are often backed by cutting-edge reformers. But do we hold an outsize belief in our ability to gauge complex phenomena, measure outcomes and come up with compelling numerical evidence? A well-known quotation usually attributed to Einstein is “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” I’d amend it to a less eloquent, more prosaic statement: Unless we know how things are counted, we don’t know if it’s wise to count on the numbers…


Taking in rather than giving out

Lately I have been taking stuff in rather than giving stuff out. After a pause for a joke courtesy of Wilson’s Blogmanac, I shall explain.


Love it!


I finished the Great Big New Book. (See from the Melbourne Writers Festival, August 2009 a video on Slow TV: Where to, Democracy?: John Keane in conversation with Lindsay Tanner.)  I am much taken by Keane’s analysis of three stages of democracy: assembly; representative; monitory.

Currently I am enjoying and learning much from David Crystal’s The stories of English (2004).

Reading from Vanity Fair I downloaded recently: Betting on the Blind Side by Michael Lewis.

Michael Burry always saw the world differently—due, he believed, to the childhood loss of one eye. So when the 32-year-old investor spotted the huge bubble in the subprime-mortgage bond market, in 2004, then created a way to bet against it, he wasn’t surprised that no one understood what he was doing. In an excerpt from his new book, The Big Short,the author charts Burry’s oddball maneuvers, his almost comical dealings with Goldman Sachs and other banks as the market collapsed, and the true reason for his visionary obsession.


My TV has carked, so my viewing at the moment is via the laptop, and what treasures I have found to download.

Slow TV

Maintained by the people who bring you The Monthly, Slow TV is rich pickings indeed. That I am a fan of Waleed Aly has been confirmed by watching his What’s Right? Waleed Aly on Conservatism. With Shaun Carney. So brilliant that man, and he confirms that I am also a conservative (in the long forgotten sense) at heart myself.

Documentary Heaven

Another treasure trove. Lately I caught up with Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story (2009). Unfortunately the copy I downloaded is missing the final minutes, but there enough there to confirm that the greatest thing about the doco is the stories people tell, many of which in their concrete way give the lie to so much far more effectively than generalised ranting does. Matt Da Silva has a recent post on it.

Moore said that in the new film he tried to make something that would ensure he never got another gig ever again. This is confronting. But so is the story he tells in it. In fact, it’s a set of stories that point to a bankrupt system of governance.

Democracy is not well served when executives from large banks are invited to participate in reform of regulation, Moore says. It is not well served when airline pilots are underpaid. It is depleted when corporations take out life-insurance policies on employees whose families, when the employees die, get nothing.

Democracy suffers when ordinary people are given loans at low interest and are unable to pay the interest after the interest rate suddenly ramps up at the end of a teaser period that they didn’t know about because it was buried in the fine print…

In Australia there were defaults but we didn’t get so many defaults because we have regulation that is adequate for its purpose – that is, preventing financial meltdown. But we still suffered for it. We’re still seeing, now, the federal opposition throw dirt on the government for having let the exchequer go into the red.

What the boys on the opposition benches never tell us, however, is that it was a conservative, neo-liberal, Republican government in America that allowed the situation to get so bad that the value of some major US companies dropped by 50 percent in a very short period of time. The US government became the world’s second-largest carmaker in the aftermath of the implosion. Those who enjoy Moore’s iconoclastic style will get a kick out of this movie. It is funny, fact-based, uncompromising, and wise. It tells stories that nobody else tells…


Well there is so much on offer from Aunty! Lately I have taken some items from Message Stick, for tutoring as well as personal reasons.