Saturday, 26 July 2008

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Martial arts in the office

Ok - it was a stupid thing to do. The likelihood that nothing would be broken was surely close to zero. But when someone asked me what the hardened conkers were for, on one of my bookshelves, I foolishly said that they were so I could practice dodging bullets, and even more foolishly said that if they were thrown at me I would be able to deflect them with the reflexes of a pouncing tiger (ok... so I did not say that, but it was something along those lines). Oddly, this person whom I would normally admire and respect proceeded to throw these things across the room at my head. By “throw” I actually mean “hurl at meteoric speed” - bullets would scarcely have travelled faster. But true to my word, I rather impressively deflected the things while I calmly sat in my chair (I was calm only because I didn’t actually have the time to quake with fear). It was only moments later, after these missiles had been deflected in all directions, that I realized that all the fragile objects in my office, including my computer screen (it was inches from my head), were miraculously intact and unbroken.
There’s a very successful social psychologist called James Pennebaker. He’s well known for showing that by analyzing the language someone uses, you can tell an awful lot about the writer - things like sex (gender, that is), age, social class, professional status, and state of mind (e.g. depression). I often wonder whether he, or anyone else come to that, has looked at the frequency with which people contribute to their own blogs and whether that correlates with anything. My guess is that the more frequent the posts, the better you feel, and that fluctuations in frequency reflect either ill-health (physical or mental) or (less likely for workaholics like me) holiday. So... when I’ve not posted for a while, feel sorry for me....

Unless I have misremembered who it was, I once found myself sitting next to James Pennebaker on a flight to the US. He gave me his copy of “Running with Scissors” (he’d just finished reading it - it’s not like he carried a stash of them around to give out to strangers). I’m ashamed to say I had absolutely no idea who he was until I googled him when I got back to York. But he’ll have had no idea who I was either. So we’re quits. Except that I guess, technically-speaking, I’m up one book. And a good book at that.