Monday, 24 November 2014

Unwilling freelancers give the lie to unemployment statistics

an article by Tom Clark published in The Guardian (28 October)

More than half of recent job growth nationwide reflects workers going it alone, but much ‘self-employment’ is something less benign

Every month, it seems at the moment, the unemployment numbers are surprisingly good. Every month, too, however, there are also new caveats to attach to the claims about “more people in jobs than ever before”.

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and do, please, get as far as noting that instead of getting Working Tax Credit based on actual earnings as a freelancer (as I did back in the day) the new Universal Credit is based on a more-than-somewhat-misguided assumption on income received.

Apologies for much of the late posting, I am still playing catch up and actually omitting a lot of stuff that, had I read it nearer its publication date, I would have included.

Just previewed this and realise that anyone can look at the number of posts published and draw a graph of my mental health!
I am actually on the up at the moment having found a really good counsellor who I see monthly.



What PISA can – and can't – tell us about adults’ skills

via OECD Education Today by Marilyn Achiron (Editor, Directorate for Education and Skills)

Can PISA results predict the quality of a country’s labour force one decade later?

To find out, we compared some of the results from the PISA 2000 and PISA 2003 tests with results from the 2012 Survey of Adult Skills (a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIAAC).

As we explain in this month’s PISA in Focus, we found that those countries where 15-year-old students achieved high scores in PISA were also the countries whose populations of young adults scored at high levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy a decade after they had participated in PISA.

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Trivia (should have been 6th September)

Manhattan Hobo: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Manhattan Hobo: 1942
New York, 1942
“Street vagrant pushcart”
Who’ll be first to pinpoint the location?
Photo by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information
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Vigoro, a hybrid sport
via The Patent Search Blog by Stephen van Dulken
The BBC website has a story titled Vigoro: the Edwardian attempt to merge tennis and cricket. It is an entertaining account of a hybrid sport invented by John George Grant, a London commercial traveller, who even took out a trade mark for it. It is rather like playing cricket with a racket. The sport continues to be played in Australia, mainly by women. There is a Wikipedia article on Vigoro. Below is a video showing the sport being played.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Exposed teeth, bunched cheeks, crinkled eyes: A smile is a peculiar thing, not least because of the spooky similarity between laughter and crying… more

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Scientists track the origins of a ship buried under the World Trade Center
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
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In 2010, construction crews found the hull of a very old ship, buried at the site of the World Trade Center towers. Using dendrochronology, scientists now know how old the ship is and what city it was made in.
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The fall of Rome to the rise of the Catholic Church, in pictures
via OUP blog by Peter Heather
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Western world went through a turbulent and dramatic period during which a succession of kingdoms rose, grew, and crumbled in spans of only a few generations. The wars and personalities of the dark ages are the stuff of legend, and all led toward the eventual reunification of Europe under a different kind of Roman rule – this time, that of the Church.
Historian Peter Heather selects ten moments from the period upon which the fate of Europe hinged.
See more
I found that the slideshow went too fast for me to read the text accompanying each picture.
Maybe that’s the setting on my laptop?

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Reading as addiction: Is Fifty Shades of Grey a gateway drug for literary fiction? Probably not. Yet we cling to the idea… more

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When did Star Trek ever *not* violate the Prime Directive?
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

“The Prime Directive is paramount, the Prime Director is sacrosanct, the... wait, these blissed-out primitives worship a computer inside of a big stone head? Fuck the Prime Directive, it must be destroyed!”
From a Facebook post by Gareth Branwyn

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When the world was black and white...
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Anne Rooney
In the Middle Ages, the world was all in colour.

This is the period I first wrote about, many years ago. The rich brilliance of medieval colours is startling, a feast for the eyes.There is a lot blue, the colour of heaven (and also a relatively common paint pigment - it might not have been an accurate representation of reality.)
Continue reading and do please read the insightful comments

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Irascible and defiant Beethoven is a cliché, yet it is true that he understood people little and liked them less.Music was his only joy… more

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Millions of Stars in Omega Centauri
via Big Think by Big Think editors
Bt_centauri_final
Look at this photograph and it’s easy to feel as though you’re in the cockpit of a spaceship, speeding down a galactic highway.
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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Job emotions and job cognitions as determinants of job satisfaction: The moderating role of individual differences in need for affect

an article by Christian Schlett and Rene Ziegler (University of Tuebingen, Germany) published in Journal of Vocational Behavior Volume 84 Issue 1 (February 2014)

Abstract

Research has shown that job satisfaction is determined by both cognitions about the job and affect at work. However, findings from basic and applied attitude research suggest that the extent to which attitudes are based on affective and cognitive information is contingent on stable individual differences, in particular need for affect.

Based on current conceptualizations of job satisfaction as an attitude toward the job, we hypothesized that job satisfaction depends more on affect and less on cognitions, the higher a person’s need for affect is.

To test these hypotheses, we conducted two correlational studies (N = 194 university employees; N = 134 employees from various organizations) as well as an experimental study (N = 191 university employees) in which the salience of positive versus negative job cognitions was varied.

Results supported our hypotheses.

We discuss theoretical and practical implications of these differences in affective and cognitive underpinnings of job satisfaction.


Monday, 17 November 2014

CPAG wins test case

Thus a headline in the most recent edition of Poverty (Issue 149 Autumn 2014) from the Child Action Poverty Group that I have seen.

Checking it out I find that I should have been following CPAG in Twitter.

Excellent write up of our test case win, led for us by @MikeSpencerLaw, by @patrickjbutler Includes Sandwell response ...
or, indeed, reading the Guardian more carefully.

You can read the Guardian’s article from the end of July here.

On reflection this was probably happening whilst I was still sitting in the pit of depression and not doing anything very much by way of “work”.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Trivia (should have been 31 August)

Lake Nonotuck: 1908
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Lake Nonotuck: 1908
“Lake Nonotuck boathouse, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass”
Two girls in a rowboat, probably talking about you
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What Causes Auroras?
via How-To Geek

Auroras are quite stunning to behold, but why and how do they happen? Learn what makes these phenomenal wonders of the sky possible in today’s video from SciShow!

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Fire and brimstone. As old as the concept of hell is the concept of hell-denying. Consider the surprisingly modern theology of Origen of Alexandria… more

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The 25 Greatest Homes in Literature
via Flavorwire by Jason Diamond
Great characters in literature get all the credit, but the fictional spaces they occupy are often just as interesting and can provide an opportunity for the reader to go even deeper into a story.
What would some of your favorite stories be without the creepy old farmhouses, crumbling castles, and estates overlooking a body of water whose waves crash against the rocks at night?
53-01
Today [13 May], as we celebrate the birthday of Daphne du Maurier – a writer who gave us one of the 20th century’s most unforgettable grand old homes, in Rebecca – we’re rounding up the most memorable structures that served as settings for some of our favourite stories.
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Vermeer’s paintings might be 350 year-old colour photographs
via Boing Boing
Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the art world: 
How did Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography?
Here’s how he conducted his experiment.
Fascinating, absolutely fascinating

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Why are all the cartoon mothers dead? In animated kids’ movies, the dead-mother plot dominates along with the fantasy of the fabulous single father. There are exceptions, and you should be wary… more

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The working women’s struggle for the vote
via National Archives by Vicky Iglikowski
On 20 June 1914 one of the first deputations of suffragettes met with the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Contrary to the popular view of suffragettes it was a group of six working class women.
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Change Your Posture, Change Your Life
via Big Think by Steven Maizie
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”
William James
I’m not so sure about James’s claim. Yes, your attitude has a strong effect on the quality and nature of your life.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
That science is incommunicable without reference to metaphor reveals an uncomfortable truth, at least for fact fanatics: Physics leans on literature… more

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Beautiful Vintage Annuals for Children
via Abebooks.co.uk

In the late 1800s, children’s stories were published in periodicals and distributed weekly or monthly to readers. To further capitalise on their market, publishing houses put together annuals filled with the best stories, illustrations and games from the year. The book was released for Christmas, and marketed as the perfect gift (both entertaining and educational) for children. The annuals were generally distributed in Britain and its colonies such as Canada and Australia, although sometimes also in the United States.
These vintage annuals are usually large, hardcover books with at least 200 pages and illustrations both in colour, and black and white. Their bright cover art is filled with eye-catching art.
At the turn of the century publishers began to include new, unpublished stories in order to boost sales. Often notable authors like W.E. Johns, Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil, E. Nesbit and P.G. Wodehouse were among the contributors. Each annual had a specific market - girls, or boys, girls and boys, or a certain genre like a cinema club. Today’s equivalent is a teen magazine, or a periodical for a celebrity or band.
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Salvation in a Start-up?

from the RSA

Our report Salvation in a Start-up? explores the factors behind the boom in self-employment and examines what life is really like for the growing numbers of people who now work for themselves.

The UK is experiencing nothing short of a boom in microbusinesses and self-employment. Today there are 600,000 more microbusinesses in existence than there was when the recession first began in 2008, and 40 per cent more than at the turn of the century. Likewise, the number of people working for themselves has shot up by around 30 per cent since 2000, with the result that 15 per cent of the workforce can now count themselves as self-employed.

This phenomenon throws up a number of important questions. What ‘types’ of microbusinesses are becoming more commonplace? What has caused the large increase in recent years? And what effect are they having on the economy and wider society? In a bid to answer these, the RSA and Etsy have launched a new project, The Power of Small, which seeks to better understand this changing community. This report – the first of three – focuses in particular on the individuals involved, including why so many people are turning to self-employment and what this means for them personally.

Our research identifies three myths in particular that have so far distorted the debate: that most of the newly self-employed have been forced into that position, that the boom in self-employment is largely accounted for by ‘odd jobbers’, and that the growth we have seen in the past few years is a cyclical blip that will die down once the economy returns to full health. Indeed, our research suggests that the rise in self-employment has as much to do with structural changes in our economy and society as it does with economic fluctuations. This includes changing mindsets, shifting demographics and the emergence of new technologies.

The fundamental question remains, however, as to whether the growth in self-employment is really a good thing for those directly involved. Should we be enabling more people to start up in business, or should we discouraging it? Relative to others, they appear to work long hours, get paid little and find themselves cut off from the wider world. Yet our research also shows that they are more satisfied and happier overall than most other groups in the wider workforce. As highlighted in the findings of our RSA/Populus survey, the reason is because the self-employed often derive greater freedom, meaning and control from their work.

We finish the report with a number of imperatives for the future:

  • Rewrite the narrative – There needs to be a more balanced debate about the benefits and costs of self-employment – one that does not drown in the hyperbole of ‘entrepreneurship’, nor one that treats self-employment as the haven for the desperate and needy
  • Agree a new settlement – An urgent task for the government and others is to improve the livelihoods of the vast majority of people who genuinely want to work for themselves. We recommend launching an urgent review of government policy on self-employment – from welfare and taxes, all the way through to education and housing
  • Harness the crowd – Greater collaboration between the self-employed community should be encouraged wherever possible. A good place to start is for the trade unions to begin recruiting such workers into their ranks of members. We should also recognise the benefits of ‘new mutualism’ and co-operatives between the self-employed
  • Stimulate growth and recruitment – The government has sought to stimulate recruitment and growth among the newly self-employed through several conventional measures, yet these have had little effect to date. This indicates the need for a fresh approach – one that treats the self-employed as inherently human and which goes with the grain of their behavioural quirks and frailties

 Download Salvation in a Start-Up? full report (PDF 72pp)