Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Being Prepared

Posted by Simon Halliday | Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Category: |

OK so last night I was asleep in bed (because obviously one is often not asleep in one’s bed, but elsewhere). I awoke to the sounds of my dogs and the dogs next door going berserk (or bezek if you hear in South Africa). This blog is about my funny response.

To give you some background, we recently had a new alarm system installed. It has detectors on the walls, in the garden outside and we hear a chime every time someone walks in the garden outside, the obvious understanding being that we can hear if anyone leaps over the wall and prepare ourselves for anything that they might choose to do to us in our sleep. That and have an alarm that goes off if anything man-sized happens to be in our garden at night. Which is useful.

So there I was lying in bed, having awoken to the sound of dogs going completely off their rocker. I heard a car idling outside. I thought to myself, ‘I really hope that my car hasn’t been broken into, Oh well… if it is I can deal.’ The dogs upped their intensity for a moment.

At that point, I grabbed my tazer-torch and my garage opener that doubles as a mobile panic button (the big red button = I am panicking, help me). So there I was in blinking sudden wakefulness. Tazer in one hand, panic button in the other, pyjama pants leg riding up my thigh looking like the epitome of danger.

In walks my brother having just parked my mum’s car in the garage. He is trying to placate the dogs. It’s 2am and he’s come back from doing an open-mic thing at Zula on Long Street. It’s all indicative to me of the problem that crime constitutes in South Africa, a growing paranoia and a (professed and believed) necessity to ‘be prepared’. So that I was. But it isn’t the most psychologically pleasant feeling I must tell you.

I try to go back to sleep. But James leaves the lights on. I get up and swear at him in a brotherly fashion. Then beat myself up as I fall asleep for being grumpy at 2am. But that’s how I roll (or something equally vague and hip-hop).

Otherwise, I read a really entertaining article yesterday (suggested by Richard) on the different capacities of ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’ brains. Here’s the link:

The article made me laugh, but it also made me worry a bit. That being said, it appealed to the determinist in me. It also made me wonder what kinds of education or socialization make the brain more plastic or not and whether these factors are driven more by genetics than they are otherwise. Could be interesting.

Another interesting article, suggested by Mike Watson (a friend in the UK) refers to how Wi-fi and other wireless communication devices (mobile phones, etc) have had barely any testing on them with respect to their health outcomes. The German Environment Ministry has suggested that individuals should do their best to avoid using Wi-fi because of the potential damages to health, outcomes that have yet to be investigated properly by government domestically in SA or many others internationally. Other suggestions: use wire connections rather than wireless, using your landline phone rather than your mobile. Hmm… all very interesting.

Anyway, I am meant to be working. Only two days left. I am picking up my transcript translated into Italian today. R900 later of course! Crazy times. But that’s the price you pay for going to study at a foreign university…

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