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Book review: “In Search of Lost Time”, fifth volume

· 8 min read

Is it me, or is this getting a bit better?

Still too damn long and still too damn detailed. And too damn overemotional (the amount of stress it can still cause grown-up Proust that one time that his mum didn't show up in his room to kiss him good-night that summer evening when he was a little kid!). And too damn posh and affected.

But on this fifth volume there were a dozen pages here and fifty pages there that were real engaging or real funny. And a few memorable quotes and brilliant reflections on life and love (of which I share a few at the end of this post).

Marcel Proust (Wikimedia Commons)

“Love, what is it but space and time rendered perceptible by the heart”

April 2024, first week

· 4 min read

There's a silly thing I started doing in 2008: during the month of April I take one photo every day to “document” my day-to-day life for my future self.

The idea, at least initially, was to be as “natural” and “honest” as possible, and to take pictures of myself doing all kind of things during the month — from household chores to work to time with friends to special events. In the first years I was much more meticulous about selecting varied and representative moments each day, and about using timers, mirrors, stands and even other people to help me capture the moment as faithfully as I could. I always thought: “I want my 80-year-old self to be able to peek at my life as it is today”, because I have a bad memory in general and I think I will like that. And indeed, it's been “only” sixteen years since I started, and I already enjoy browsing past April photos and reading the comments I wrote at the time.

I always posted the photos online, but hid the most intimate ones from strangers: those are visible only to family and/or to friends — and a few are only available to me (that's why you probably see fewer than 30 photos in each of my albums and sets online).

In the goold old days of Flickr, a bunch of friends and acquaintances liked the idea and even played along for a few installments. It was good fun for one month every year, some of us who had met mostly over the interwebs got to know each other a little better, and some people took it almost as seriously as I did. When we all most of us abandoned Flickr, I used Pixelfed for a while (eg, April 2021 here and here). During the transition, I never got around to publishing the photos I took one year (2020, I think). Some of those years I set myself a theme or a prompt for the month: “16:9 aspect ratio”, “black & white with dashes of colour”, “repetitions or reflections”, etc. And one year, I forgot to take one of the photos (but I have forgiven myself).

Anyway, here goes my first week of daily photos this year!

Seventeen years on Twitter

· 2 min read

Seventeen years ago yesterday, everybody was talking about that amazing gadget, the “iPhone” — but nobody you knew had one yet, because the world had been introduced to the iPhone only two months earlier.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, in Europe only wonks knew who “Obama” was, since he had just announced that he'd be running for president the previous month.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, I had been living and working in London for one year, and I was loving it.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, Twitter had been open for registrations for half a year, and was slowly getting more attention from geeks (although the product had been one year in the making already). It was exactly then that I joined the “micro-blogging platform” and started tweeting all kind of banal thoughts — just like the few friends of mine who were there already.

«Y: El Último Hombre»

· 2 min read

Pillé este tebeo de la biblioteca municipal un poco al azar (mis hijos solo quieren que les lea sus libros, y no son muy pacientes cuando yo me paseo por los estantes de adultos). Hojeándolo rápido, el dibujo no me pareció sobresaliente; y la premisa se me antojaba un poco infantil, un poco rollo pulp. Creo que me decidí a sacarlo prestado sobre todo porque me impresionó y me intrigó la cita superlativa de Stephen King que ponen en la portada («la mejor novela gráfica que haya leído jamás»).

Ha sido un gran descubrimiento.

What causes the “gender pay gap”?

· 5 min read

What pay gap, exactly?

“While the official gender pay gap figure is 9.1% for full-time workers, the pay gap between men and women aged 22-39 is negligible [ONS 2017 a]

Between ages 22 and 39, this gender pay rate gap is negligible (between about -1% and +2%). The all-ages ‘averaged’ full time pay rate gap in favour of men (currently a median little above 9%) occurs entirely due to a pay rate differential opening up after age 40 and applies only before tax. For part time workers the (gross) gender pay rate gap is in favour of women by 5.1% (2017). […] Men pay 169% more income tax than women.” [ONS 2017 b]

“There is no pay gap for full-time workers 21-35 living alone. [According to a 2005 study,] among college-educated never married individuals with no children who worked full time and were from 40 to 64 years old, men averaged $40,000 a year and women $47,000.” [Sowell 2011]

“As far back as 1971, single women in their thirties who had worked continuously since high school earned slightly more than men of the same description. As far back as 1969, academic women who had never married earned more than academic men who had never married.” [Sowell 2016]

Women and men in the same circumstances (e.g., same type of institution, discipline, and amount of experience) fare equivalently [Ceci 2011]

«La pugna por el nuevo orden internacional»

· 7 min read

Unos amigos me regalaron este libro por mi cumpleaños en agosto. Como soy tremendamente tiquismiquis en el mantenimiento de the pila y no conocía ni al libro, ni a ninguno de sus autores, ni al grupo al que pertenecen (Descifrando la Guerra), al principio fui bastante escéptico. Pero empecé a leerlo en la piscina por hacer algo «ligero» mientras vigilaba con la otra mitad del cerebro a los niños en sus juegos, y me enganchó.

Portada del libro «La pugna por el nuevo orden internacional: claves para entender la geopolítica de las grandes potencias»

En esencia, es un buen «resumen» de la geopolítica mundial desde la caída del Muro de Berlín y el fin de la Guerra Fría hasta hace apenas unos meses. El tono es riguroso y académico, pero a la vez comprensible para legos.

El relato de todo lo que ha pasado está más o menos dividido por épocas históricas y por regiones, así que es fácil digerirlo a trozos, usar el libro como obra de consulta, o ir solamente a las partes que más le interesen a uno (por ejemplo, en mi caso: Japón, las Coreas, China, y la situación con Taiwan). El libro también hace fácil «compartimentar» en la mente el inmenso ovillo de hilo que es la Historia reciente (o cualquier Historia, claro). Esto seguramente es «malo», porque en realidad todo está interrelacionado y todos los acontecimientos son consecuencia de acontecimientos previos y proyectan a su vez sus reverberaciones en el futuro. Pero es imposible abordar el asunto si uno no intenta mirar por partes a ciertas zonas (p.ej. Oriente Medio) o a ciertos actores (p.ej. la Administración Obama).